JAKARTA / AMSTERDAM - It sounded so appealing to become an Au Pair in Europe on paper. Unsurprisingly a website like AuPairWorld.com, which matches au pairs and host families, displays hundreds of profiles of young women advertising their baby-sitting skills.  

The idea of exploring a country like the Netherlands, experiencing a new culture and living with a local European family, to help them with the children and some light chores around the house, appeals to many in Southeast Asia. Including young Indonesian women. The Au Pair program, which brands itself as a cultural exchange opportunity also offers pocket money (no payment), a free language course, and often a free flight ticket to the destination country.

But our research shows that this cultural exchange program, is also the beginning of various exploitation practices. In several cases the young women, often from vulnerable backgrounds, face long days, low pay, and demands that don’t match the concept of a cultural exchange. Eager to find a better life for themselves and their families back home, the program is also being used a springboard for a undocumented life in the shadow economy of Europe. 

The investigation team unravelled a profit-fuelled cultural exchange system, where European agencies and matching-websites make mounting profits. Where a growing number of Dutch host families opt for an au pair without the regulation of an official agency. And where the Au Pairs are being confronted with a severe lack of protection from the Indonesian government and a constant suspicious, controlling attitude from Au Pair agencies and Dutch government.

© ✍️  Illustration by Ali (Jaring.id)

Team members

Sonya Andomo

Sonya Andomo is a journalist based in Jakarta.

Sonya Andomo


Asmariyana (Indonesia) is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Rights, migrant workers, and labour.


Sarah Haaij

Sarah Haaij is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam.

Sarah Haaij

Abdus Somad

Abdus Somad is a journalist based in Jakarta.


Lindita Çela

Lindita Çela is an investigative reporter based in Albania.

Lindita Çela

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