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Could Denmark follow Norway’s decision to scrap au pair scheme?

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Could Denmark follow Norway’s decision to scrap au pair scheme?
At least two parties in Denmark's parliament want to drastically change the country's au pair rules. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A trade union which represents au pairs in Denmark says it would not be beneficial to scrap the country’s au pair scheme, but that it must undergo reforms.

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Although much work can be done to improve the Danish au pair scheme, it would not make sense to follow the lead of Nordic neighbour Norway and scrap the scheme altogether, head of section with trade union FOA Pia Heidi Nielsen told Ritzau.

The Norwegian government on Wednesday decided to scrap the country’s au pair scheme with immediate effect, arguing that it had moved from a cultural exchange arrangement to one of cheap labour.

““From the start, the au pair scheme was about cultural exchange. To give young people, especially women, an opportunity to get a job and a place to live in return for providing help in the family. This is no longer the case,” Per Vidar Kjølmoen, an MP for the Norwegian Labour Party told the country’s TV 2 broadcaster.

Norway’s government first announced plans to scrap the scheme in early 2023, and the policy was part of the political platform on which the current Oslo government was formed in 2021.

Left-wing Danish parties SF and Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) have meanwhile proposed changes to the existing scheme in Denmark.

“We should not go the same way [as Norway] in Denmark. On the contrary, we should look at the scheme we have and improve it with an eye for protection [of au pairs] and pay,” Nielsen said. 

READ ALSO: What is Denmark’s au pair scheme and who can apply? 

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She added that the work provided by au pairs in Denmark is in demand and would be taken be someone if no scheme was in place.

Red Green Alliance lawmaker Victoria Velásquez is one of the members of parliament to propose a change to Denmark’s existing au pair rules.

“Currently, au pairs are hugely short of rights, are vulnerable and underpaid. They must be given rights in line with the rest of the Danish labour market,” she said.

But introduction of such rights would represent a de facto end to the au pair scheme in its current form, she noted.

People in Denmark on au pair visas are permitted to work no more than 30 hours per week and must be paid at least 4,700 kroner per month.

The SF and Red Green Alliance porposal is scheduled for its first reading in parliament on Thursday next week.

The parties want the au pair scheme to be replaced a legally regulated work and residency scheme for persons defined as “family helpers”.

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