Traveling and getting paid in dollars: the job that more and more young Argentines choose

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Traveling and getting paid in dollars: the job that more and more young Argentines choose

It all started because an acquaintance told her experience as au paira program to travel to another country for a year, stay with a family with children and work as a nanny in exchange for a salary in hard currency. When Antonela Figallo (19) heard that story, she was about to finish high school and was not sure if she wanted to pursue a career or go to work. “And why don’t you go too?” Her mother asked.

That phrase was the trigger for Figallo to leave his native Chascomús to go live in Connecticut (United States). During the week, she looks after a three-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. Some weekends, she travels. “So far I have made six trips, although two were with my first host family (host family) to Florida and a beach in Texas, because he wanted me to take care of the boys, “he said.

The program has existed for decades in Argentina, although In recent years, agencies have noticed an increase in the volume of girls who apply to be au pair According to Yenifer Córdoba, manager of the Cultural Care Au Pair Argentina program, this work not only grew “because of the desire young people have to live unique experiences,” but also because it became known in the country.

For Yanina Catellani, commercial director of Acexplore, the phenomenon could be explained by the popularity of the program through social networks. The young women who travel tell their experience on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, which encourages other Argentines to investigate in the first person and corroborate that “it does not go through labor exploitation or an illegal program”.

Although many of the au pair return to the country, for those seeking to establish themselves in other latitudes it is a first step. “There is a common sense that progress cannot be made in Argentina, that there are no opportunities. In some cases it is real, in others, more imaginary. but be au pair It is quite accessible, for $100,000 you have the ticket to get to work in countries like the United States or Europe and start earning in another currency. And if they come back, the girls have a differential profile for companies on their resumes,” Catellani said.

That was the case of Belén Méndez Trongé (24). “The first time I traveled outside of Argentina I realized that I didn’t want to live there, not because ‘there is no future,’ but because I didn’t see myself there”, be sincere. The first destination in her mind was Spain, where she had won a scholarship to study photography. However, the help was not complete and she did not have the money to travel on her own.

“I had to turn down the scholarship because my parents told me they weren’t going to pay for my trip there, but I told myself ‘I’m going anyway.’ Since she knew that an acquaintance had just returned to Argentina after being au pair, I saw it for the first time as a way to raise money,” he said. In August 2021 he got his driver’s license, the only requirement that was pending for him to leave. Four months later, she arrived in Illinois to meet her new adoptive family: a single mother and two girls ages 11 and 13.

Belén Méndez Trongé on vacation in Colorado with the host family

Their routine consists of getting up early to take them to school. During the morning he goes to the gym, which is paid by his family, as well as other expenses such as the cell phone chip, gasoline, personal hygiene items, the car and food. In the afternoon, he goes back to look for the girls and stays with them in the house, although due to his age he no longer needs to take care of them and entertain them. For this reason, he receives a minimum salary of around US$783.

“It helps me save, because I have no expenses. I earn more as Uber de las ninas than my Argentine friends, although here it means the minimum, minimum. Afterwards, I feel part of the family. For example, when we go to take a picture they include me, they invite me when they go out to eat or go on vacation. A month after we arrived, we went skiing for a week in Colorado and in the spring break (Spring Break) we went camping in an RV,” he remarked.

An ocean away, Sol Ferrari (26) settled in London as au pair from a Colombian family. He left Argentina with the aim of traveling and, when she arrived in Europe, she discovered that her childcare experience could be turned into a temporary job to save up and then visit other destinations.

After researching for weeks on what it meant to be au pair, listening to stories and talking to several families, agreed to care for a two-year-old boy. In his case, the workload is greater than the average, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “While the parents work, I take him for walks around London. I visited parks, also museums because he loves them”, he recounted.

Not all experiences are good. In some cases the au pair They do not understand each other with the families, they ask them to do tasks that had not been agreed upon or they do not like the place. In those situations, there is the option of asking for a “re-match” with another family. Figallo was one of them. “The family was great, but I didn’t like Texas and I had to work a lot on the weekends, it wasn’t what I was looking for,” she added.

In French, “au pair” means “on par” or “equal to”. The term came into use in the 19th century to refer to women who came to France from England to stay with families and teach children English. A couple of centuries later, the origins of the work remain only in China.

“There they are looking au pair so that they are teachers of the children and not so that they take care of them. For this reason we look for them to know the language well, to be translators or teachers. I understand this is happening because of a language gap between the older generation and the current one, and they want to reverse it.. In return, the au pair learn mandarin”, Catellani said.

For the rest of the destinations, the main job is to take care of the smallest of the family and in each place different requirements are requested. For example, in the United States they require being between 18 and 26 years old, being single and not having children, having finished high school, having a conversational level of English, having a driver’s license and prove at least 200 hours of experience caring for or working with children who are not relatives. In turn, the stay must be at least 12 months and the workers have to study.

In contrast, in some European countries the age requirement extends between 28 and 29 years. In addition, in destinations such as Belgium, the United States, Germany and China they have specific programs for au pair While in Spain, Switzerland and Ireland the applicants have to have European citizenship to be able to work. In no case is it a requirement to be a woman, although the process for men entails more waiting time.

In addition to the lodging and meals offered by the families, the au pair they receive salary compensation, vacations and benefits. In the United States, the minimum wage is US$783 and there are two weeks of vacation.. In England, the salary varies between £320 (US$345) and £400 (US$430); in France and Ireland from £320; and in the Netherlands £300, plus an educational grant.

On the other hand, if the experience takes place in Germany, the salary is £260 plus a £90 educational allowance, with four weeks of paid vacation. In Austria, earnings increase to £575 ($620) with five weeks off. In Switzerland, 700 Swiss francs (US$736) and a month’s vacation. In Australia, weekly salary of between 200 and 250 Australian dollars, plus a bonus of US$500 after completing the first six months of the experience. And in China, he is paid 1,500 yuan (US$234) and financial support of 12,000 yuan (US$1,876) in tickets.

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