The Male Au Pair: Migrant Men Providing Domestic and Care Services In Au Pair Jobs

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Caterina ROHDE , Sociology, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
Research on migrants working in low income jobs show a gender logic according to which female migrants typically work in domestic and care work, while male migrants hold jobs in the industrial sector. The increasing popularity of male au pairs offers a unique opportunity to research a specific case of migrants’ labor market position contradictory to this logic. Since there do not exist any studies and statistics on male au pairs yet, I propose an explorative research project on male au pairs in Germany. It is based on 3 in-depth interviews with male au pairs, data from online forums, journalistic articles, advertising materials of au pair agencies as well as interviews with agency staff.

Au pair work is a specific type of reproductive labor because the working relation between au pair and the employing family is only very poorly regulated. Thus, every case shows which specific tasks are delegated to the au pair and which according competencies are expected of the au pair. At the intersection of ethnicity/nationality and masculinity the male au pair is constructed as a suitable worker for families with sons. Alike the broad discussion about the importance of men for socializing male children, male au pairs are hired when the male parent is absent and are expected to fulfill the position of a male role model. The foreignness of the au pair is portrayed as a value of intercultural education. At the same time offering low waged work within the own household is legitimized as providing life chances to a young person from a less developed country. Biographical interviews show that male au pairs often feel overburdened by the expectation to be a male role model and report to feel pressured into adjusting to the families’ cultural/individual routines instead of pursuing their own lifestyle.