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What you need to know about Au Pairs!

If the word -Au Pair makes you thinks of Mary Poppins, you are not too far off. Au Pairs are a new age solution (in South Africa) to an age old problem – they provide care for children while parents are working. The concept of live in or live out Au Pairs may be a relatively new one to South African families, however in so many countries, Au Pairs have been providing a much needed service for many years and today, South African parents can choose to go to go this route.


What is an Au Pair?

The word -Au Pair is French and means -equal to . This is an indication that the Au Pair is considered to be a part of the host family and her role is to care for the children and even offer assistance with a few of the household domestic chores, like light cleaning.

The requirements of an Au Pair, includes:

  • The ability to converse fluently in the language of the host family;
  • Be over the age of 18;
  • Have a valid driver’s licence;
  • Many host families prefer non-smokers;
  • Have basic child care experience.


What are the expectations?

An Au Pair’s role is not just that of a nanny. A lot of Au Pairs are usually employed for after-school hours, which means that the Au Pair will collect the children from school, help them with lunch, and assist them to complete homework or school projects. Those with toddlers may rely on the Au Pair to provide care during the day or after attending playschool. For a family with an infant, a live in Au Pair would prove to be a better solution.

During family holidays, the caregiver is often asked to accompany the family on holiday and her role is then to care for the child or children during the holiday.

The expectations on the Au Pair will obviously differ from family to family whereas some host family just need childcare, others may require that the Au Pair runs errands or does the family shopping.


Au Pair Agencies

South Africa has a number of Au Pair agencies whose role will be to attempt to match up the host family with a suitable Au Pair. These agencies will screen all the child minders who are registered on their books and if they are foreign nationals, the agency will make certain that all their travel documentation is up to date and they are legal workers in the country. For their services rendered, the agency will charge a fee (around R1000) and they will present the family with several qualified and experienced candidates. A family in need of an Au Pair with experience in caring for a child for special needs can make this need known and the agency will find the most suited candidates.



Au Pairs are not a cheap childcare option and are probably one of the most expensive choices. However, when considered the many benefits which are provided by these trained caregivers, most of the host families overlook the high costs and opt to go this route.

The basic salary for an Au Pair ranges from between R35.00 to R60.00 per hour. This rate will depend on the Au Pair’s experience and her years of service. Babysitting after hours is charged at the same rate. A family with a live in Au Pair may be able to negotiate this hourly rate if all meals, accommodation, etc. are provided free of charge. For the Au Pair who makes use of her own vehicle to collect children or to run errands during the day must be compensated for petrol usage as well as wear and tear on her car and this is charge at about R3.00 per kilometre.


Things to consider

  • Is your home able to accommodate a live in Au Pair? It is important for an Au Pair to have her privacy in your home; therefore she should have her own bathroom and definitely her own room.
  • Most Au Pairs are young students and after hours they will socialise with friends, and go out. The host family must set ground rules as to what they expect and what they are willing to tolerate.



  • An Au Pair usually has her own vehicle, but some host families may choose to supply a car to allow her to collect the children from school or to run errands.
  • Many Au Pairs are completing their studies, and they choose to childcare because it offers them flexibility and the chance to earn money while studying.
  • A lot of young men are now beginning to show an interest in this vocation.
  • Matriculated high school students often choose to Au Pair in foreign countries during their gap year. This allows them to travel and earn an income.


– Kathy Baron


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