Norway Officially Ends Au Pair Program

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Following years of debate, the Norwegian government has finally announced the end to its controversial au pair program. Here’s what’s happened, and why.

A valuable cultural exchange program or a way for wealthy Norwegians to exploit low-cost labour? The debate on the practice of hiring an au pair (a form of ‘live-in nanny’) in Norway has raged for a long time. But now, the debate has come to an end.

Norwegian Parliament building in Oslo. Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
Norway has taken decisive action on au pairs. Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

Back in 2023, we wrote about how the Norwegian government was considering ending the au pair program. That change has now been confirmed in a decisive move from the government.

From March 15 this year, no further au pair applications from residents of countries outside the European Economic Area will be accepted by Norway.

The Pros and Cons of Au Pairs

Originally, the idea behind the Norwegian au pair program was one of cultural exchange.

Participants were mostly young women who travelled abroad to live with a family, learn about a different culture, and a foreign language. In return, the participant would provide child-minding and light housework services.

In Norway, there was a specific residence permit for au pairs. Typically, successful applicants were granted a permit to live in Norway for up to two years.

Norway au pair image
Norway’s au pair program is no more.

Over time, the concept of the au pair program changed. Very few Norwegians took part in the program. Most au pairs coming to Norway were young women from the Philippines.

In recent years, there have been many stories in the media of Norwegians using the program to circumvent Norway’s otherwise strong labour laws. Many young women had been exploited by their host families to work long hours as household servants.

Some cases ended up in court, with some Norwegians even serving jail time over the abuse and exploitation of their au pairs.

The controversy has been raging since 2019. A government minister was among the people investigated by the authorities for potentially misusing the program. Back in 2019, UDI director Frode Forfang addressed the issues in a blog post:

“The authorities have always tried to enforce this as a system for cultural exchange, while most people probably perceive it as an opportunity to get relief at home. The balance here is also one of the reasons why this has long been a controversial arrangement.”

What Happens Now?

Au pairs already in Norway under the program can continue to work their contracts. Justice minister Emilie Enger Mehl said they would “continue to be protected against abuse and exploitation.”

Read more: Learn aboout all things relocation in our guide to moving to Norway.

However, from 15 March, it will no longer be possible for anyone to apply for an au pair residence permit. According to the minister, any future need for household help shall be covered from within Norway or the European area.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “Norway Officially Ends Au Pair Program”

  1. You are writing “Very few Norwegians took part in the program.”

    But this change is only about au pairs coming to Norway and nothing will change for Norwegians wishing to go abroad as an au pair, right?


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