Fri, Jul 21, 2017 - Page 7 News List

BREXIT: Au pair numbers drop on Brexit impact

AFP, LONDON

Negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have barely started, but some British families are already feeling the bite as the number of au pairs coming from across Europe declines.

“Brexit had an impact, without any question,” British Au Pair Agencies Association president Rebecca Haworth-Wood said.

“I estimate that au pair applications for the UK are at least 50 percent down compared with this time last year” after Britain voted to leave the EU, she said.

Compared with 2015 “last year’s numbers were also very much lower due to the uncertainty caused by the Brexit referendum” on June 23 last year.

Every year, about 40,000 British families welcome an au pair — a young person keen to improve their English and travel who looks after children in exchange for lodging and some pocket money.

There are usually more au pair applications than families needing their services, but that may be changing as parents turned to the popular online forum Mumsnet to voice their growing desperation.

“Instead of the normal flood of applicants on AuPairWorld I had to do all the chasing and matching,” one parent wrote on Mumsnet.

“Eventually we found someone, but it was such hard work. Bloody Brexit,” the parent wrote.

“The agency have informed us hardly anyone wants to come to the UK,” another parent wrote.

“It’s horrific this year,” a third said. “We usually have over 100 applications. This year it’s us doing all the applying [to girls who have more than 100 responses],” the parent said.

At the heart of the problem is the uncertainty over travel and residency rights for EU nationals as the British government has made putting an end to freedom of movement one of the cornerstones of its negotiating stance.

AuPairWorld, an agency based in Germany, said it had seen applications for Britain drop from 21,000 in the first half of 2015 to 12,000 in the first half of this year.

“We can only speculate about the reasons, but it might very well be Brexit and all the uncertainties around it,” agency spokeswoman Susanne Becker said.

“People might fear that they will soon need a visa. And of course, no one knows who will be able to apply for a visa, how difficult it will be and how much it might cost,” she said.

For Haworth-Wood, the terror attacks that have struck Europe in recent months may also be to blame for young people’s reluctance to travel.

While waiting for the UK government to explain what immigration system they want to implement for au pairs, Haworth-Wood is keen to reassure, saying: “At the moment nothing has changed. We want Europeans to know they are very welcome.”

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