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Resource August 1, 2016

Meet the Journalists: Allison Shelley and Ana P. Santos

Au pair Lucila Espinosa Milay checks her receipt as she walks through a row of money transfer businesses after wiring part of her paycheck to siblings back in the Philippines, at Central Station in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 21, 2016. Milay pays the school fees for several of her eight siblings back home, sending money every 15 days. Remittances are a huge economic driver in the Philippines. Image by Allison Shelley. Philippines, 2016.

On paper, the au pair program is a cultural exchange program. But for many people, the motivations...

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Jennifer D. Cuevas, left, helps Yvette Roepstorff, a fashion agent, make dinner at the Roepstorff home
Jennifer D. Cuevas, left, helps Yvette Roepstorff, a fashion agent, make dinner at the Roepstorff home in the affluent suburb of Klampenbourg, where Cuevas works as an au pair, just north of Copenhagen, Denmark, May 21, 2016. Cuevas is the family's tenth au pair and will likely be the last. With new paperwork costs, insurance and monthly pay, the costs are far more then when the family hired their first au pair. 'Also, my teenage daughter needs to learn the value of cleaning her own room,' says Roepstorff. 'For her, the party will soon be over.' Image by Allison Shelley. Denmark, 2016.

Writer Ana P. Santos and documentary photographer Allison Shelley traveled to Denmark for their project "Au Pair Program: Cultural Exchange or Cheap Domestic Labor?"

Denmark tops the list of the countries with the most Filipino au pairs, hosting close to half of the total estimated 7,000 Filipino au pairs deployed across the 13 partner countries. 

On paper, an au pair visa allows a young person a chance to live in another country and become immersed in a different culture. In exchange for doing light chores for a host family, au pairs receive free board and lodging and a modest allowance ($600 per month) that will fund their cultural and educational immersion. But the visa often masquerades as a way of hiring cheap domestic help—an open secret supported by both governments.

This project examines the issues surrounding the "au pair visa" to see if it is just another form of slavery whitewashed as a cultural exchange.


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Migration and Refugees

Migration and Refugees
Three women grouped together: an elderly woman smiling, a transwoman with her arms folded, and a woman holding her headscarf with a baby strapped to her back.


Gender Equality

Gender Equality
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Labor Rights

Labor Rights