Ethan Blasco just turned 22 and has nothing but good words about the town where he lives, Weybridge, a town of about 30,000 inhabitants in West London. He describes the couple who have welcomed him since September in terms that are also affectionate. They have made it easier for him to integrate into the family and the country, they treat him with confidence. He is, after all, like an older brother to his 7-year-old son.

The young Valencian belongs to the last group of Europeans who will be able to enjoy this experience. Because the ‘Brexit’ has brought the surprise that a month later more shares are traded on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange than on the London Stock Exchange, that some Scottish shellfish are unable to export and the discovery that the entry of ‘ au pair ‘in the UK.

British governments have prioritized ending the free movement of people in the European Union for the past five years and a new immigration law came into force on 1 January. It requires visas for foreigners seeking paid work. The requirements include that those who have an offer to babysit must receive a minimum annual salary of about 23,000 euros.

Blasco can stay in the United Kingdom because he arrived before the end of 2020 and has requested, like 250,000 other Spaniards, the status of settled. His is provisional, because he must spend five years of residence for all the rights of community citizens settled in the country to be recognized. You can and want to continue your current job. The pay is 114 euros for about 25 hours a week. But he has his own room, eats and dines with the family, has time to study English and thus complement his higher level of animation and physical sports activities (Tafad). He wants to know more places and facets of “one of the best countries in the world”, when the restrictions due to the pandemic end.

Both he and Laura Martín, founder of the Servihogar agency, who also organized his first experience as an ‘au pair’, four years ago in Scotland, mention in the conversation a common argument among those affected by this ‘Brexit’ surprise. “The ‘au pair’ program should be treated as a cultural exchange and not as a job,” they say.

What motivates the German, Swedish or Dutch girls who ask Martín for a Spanish family to spend a course with them? The promise of seventy euros a week in exchange for babysitting and doing some housework? No. They want to improve their knowledge of Spanish, just like Ethan Blasco with English. You are already preparing the exam for intermediate level B1.

Not everything is congratulations on the status of ‘au pair’. When Peter Foster published on the social network Twitter his article in the ‘Financial Times’ about the end of an exchange that would benefit at least 45,000 British families, a cascade of reproaches fell on the author for worrying about those who “exploit in a stark way young foreigners as modern slaves’, according to a reply.

The response from the UK Home Office to Jamie Shackell, president of Bapaa, an association of au pair agencies, suggests that the end is welcome. “Immigration is to be seen alongside the development of the UK workforce rather than as an alternative,” the letter said. And it recommended that families offer better conditions to attract visa immigrants.

Cynthia Cary, who created the Rainbow agency in England twelve years ago and has had a reference in Servihogar to recruit her ‘au pairs’, has lost more than 90% of her business, which was made up of community youth. He sees “a bleak future” for his company. It will now try to directly recruit students who have postponed their march to the University due to the pandemic or new immigrants.

The will of young British people, or Australians and New Zealanders who benefit from temporary visas for young foreigners, to live with a family and work for the minimum wage the hours contracted, when they already know the language and the culture, will be tested. The loss of an ‘au pair’ will especially harm single-parent families or in which both spouses work.

The Spanish partner agencies in Aepa would like to see the creation of a special visa for ‘au pair’, as they exist in Germany, the Netherlands and other EU countries. It would perhaps facilitate the opening of a channel of reciprocity with the United Kingdom, but the governments seem indifferent for the moment.

Laura Martin lived in Newcastle for four memorable months thirty years ago with the family of a deputy and Ethan Blasco is exultant despite the limitations of the pandemic. But the preferred destination of young Spaniards, without resources to pay for English courses and a prolonged stay in the United Kingdom, has closed its door to the extraordinary youth experience of integrating for a time into a family whose language and customs are unknown. .


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Image of the ITP Aero factory in Sestao.
Image of the ITP Aero factory in Sestao. / LUIS ÁNGEL GÓMEZ
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Thursday 18 February 2021, 12:53