Precarious Care Labor: Contradictory Work Regulations and Practices for Au Pairs in Sweden

  • Terese Anving Lund University
  • Sara Eldén Lund University
Keywords: Employment, wages, unemployment & rehabilitation, Gender, ethnicity, age & diversity


This paper focuses on the rules and regulations relating to au pair work in Sweden, and how these rules correlate with au pairing practices. The precarious position of au pairs has been highlighted before, but in addition, au pairs coming to Sweden also find themselves in an unclear work situation due to contradictory rules and regulations. While au pairs from outside the EU must apply for a work permit that defines their work as cultural exchange, this regulation does not apply to EU au pairs. As a consequence, we currently see the emergence of an almost completely unregulated— and growing—market for au pairing in Sweden. Drawing on a qualitative study of the private child care market in Sweden, this paper analyzes rules and regulations for au pairing, as well as how au pair working conditions are understood, negotiated, and realized by employing parents, and au pairs themselves. This is analyzed in relation to theoretical elaborations of paid and unpaid work, as well as discussions of care as a practice where ‘work’ and ‘emotion’ is inherently intertwined.

Author Biographies

Terese Anving, Lund University

PhD and Researcher. Department of Sociology, 


Sara Eldén, Lund University

PhD and Assistant Senior Lecturer. Department of Sociology

How to Cite
Anving, T., & Eldén, S. (2016). Precarious Care Labor: Contradictory Work Regulations and Practices for Au Pairs in Sweden. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 6(4), 29-48.