Who is an au pair?
An au pair is a helper from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a monetary allowance for personal use (pocket money - minimum £90/week based on BAPAA guidelines).
Au pair arrangements are subject to government restrictions which specify an age range usually from mid-late teens to mid to late twenties; some countries explicitly limit the arrangement to females. (In UK: female or male between 18-30)
Arrangements differ between Europe, where the concept originated, and North America. In Europe, au pairs are only supposed to work part-time, and they often also study part-time, generally focusing on the language of the host country. In the United States, they may provide full-time childcare.
In 1969, the European Agreement on Au Pair Placement was signed, and it came into force in 1971. Unlike many other types of domestic assistants, the au pair is considered a part of the host family and not merely an employee.