Transnational Care Migration of Women from the North: Au Pairs in Australia

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Nana OISHI, Asian Institute, the University of Melbourne, Australia
This paper examines the transnational migration of female domestic workers and caregivers from industrialized countries to Australia. In recent years, a growing number of young women from Europe (especially the UK, France, Germany) and Japan are now working in Australia as au pairs to take care of children and household chores for local families. Due to the lack of regulatory frameworks in care and domestic sectors, many of these women have fallen into exploitative working conditions. Their invisibility and isolation in private homes as well as the exploitative nature of short-term contract compound their vulnerability. While many migrant women from the South have access to pre-departure orientations in their countries of origin and other state and non-state assistance in destination countries, migrant women from the North receive little information or help in Australia. This study delineates the factors behind these young women’s decision to take up low-paid and unpaid care work in Australia, and also the ways in which the cultural capital (especially language proficiency) of au pairs contributes to differential autonomy that they experience. By highlighting the crucial roles that these women play in social reproduction in Australia, this paper argues for regulating the care sectors, re-assessing the working holiday visa scheme and introducing protective measures for all young women and men from exploitative employment practices in Australia and beyond.