Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Children Robert Troy has called on the Government to put in place greater protections for au pairs working in the home. Deputy Troy made the comments after the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland published a report detailing growing exploitation in the childcare sector.

“The report published by the MRCI confirms that au pairs are working in up to 20,000 Irish homes, with many being subjected to exploitation and abuses of labour law. More and more parents are relying on au pairs as primary child minders due to the soaring costs of childcare.

“Au pairs frequently only receive a minimal level of remuneration for working long hours and having extensive child minding responsibilities. The study highlights what many of us have suspected for some time. According to the report, 49% of au pairs earn between €100 and €119 per week with 26% working between 40 to 60 hours per week.

“The report also sets out the disturbing working conditions that many au pairs have to endure. 21% do not receive regular work breaks and 36% have gone as far as reporting exploitation due to the experiences that they have had. Many of the practices that au pairs are forced to endure are in breach of current employment law. The exploitation should be ended as a matter of urgency through the use of information campaigns, enhanced inspection regimes and targeted policies aimed at formalising work in the sector”.

Deputy Troy also outlined how growing childcare costs have led to the expansion of the informal childcare sector in recent years.

“The massive increase in childcare costs that we have seen in recent years has clearly led to an expansion in the informal childcare sector. This includes the inappropriate use of au pairs as primary child-minders. The Minister needs to take urgent action to reduce the costs of childcare in order to reverse the over-reliance on informal childcare arrangements.

“Fianna Fáil is the only party to have put forward comprehensive proposals to deal with the high cost of childcare in the current Dáil term. Fianna Fáil rolled out community childcare when in Government, and we now want to build on that achievement. Our fully costed proposals include the introduction of a second free pre-school year for children aged 2-3 years and a Childcare Support Credit targeted at low and middle income families to help ease the cost of childcare on working families” said Deputy Troy.