The issue of punishing childcare costs in Ireland has taken a sinister turn with the revelation that families are resorting to a form of slavery in order to reduce mounting creche expenditure.
The Migrants Right Centre of Ireland (MRCI) is claiming that young, immigrant women are being exploited by hard-pressed middle-class families by employing them as child minders for as little as €2 an hour.
This alleged exploitation is particularly bad in South Dublin, the organization claims.
Only it is not just child minding duties that the workers are expected to fulfill.
Besides looking after the family’s children, in many cases the person is also expected to do all the housework, including cleaning, ironing, running chores, school runs, cooking for the family, etc., all for wholly inadequate remuneration.
The MRCI says that girls from Brazil, eastern Europe, France, Spain and Italy are working up to 60 hours per week for as little as €2 an hour.
Numerous complaints have been lodged with the organization, regarding remuneration, mistreatment, and other issues.
A spokesperson for MRCI said that the problem is getting worse, and that there seems to be a feeling of ‘culturally acceptable’ for some Irish families to exploit people in this way.
While the spokesperson did concede that some an pairs are treated in a fair manner, there is an awareness that many are not, and that in many cases reported to MRCI, it is akin to slave labour.
It is estimated that about 10,000 au pairs are currently working in private homes across Ireland, though the exact number is impossible to quantify, as the industry is not regulated in any way.