There are as many as several hundred au pairs (nannies) working in families in Finland, and the Finnish tax authorities regard them as illegal labour. The problem is that Finland has not ratified the European Agreement on Au Pairs by the European Council, which stipulates that au pairs do not have to pay taxes.
Consequently, the Finnish authorities are adamant demanding that even au pairs have to acquire a tax card and pay taxes.
Moreover, the tax authorities want to tax all benefits that au pairs receive, including accommodation, food, language courses, and bus passes. All these make the hiring of an au pair so expensive that in many cases it is not sensible any more.
Even if an au pair paid taxes, she would not have Finnish social security coverage. Typically, an au pair earns less than EUR 930 per month, which is not enough for her to be eligible for residence-based social security benefits.
According to the European Council and the Finnish Directorate of Immigration, au pairs are in the country primarily hoping to improve their linguistic knowledge as well as their general grasp of the culture, and not in order to work. Consequently, all they need is a residence permit - not a work permit.
"We observe the European Agreement on Au Pairs, which even Finland has signed. Even though the agreement has not been ratified, we have a permanent protocol based on the rules of this agreement", says Senior Inspector Carita Meriläinen of the Directorate of Immigration.
In order to be granted a residence permit, an au pair from outside the EU has to prove that she has studied either Finnish or Swedish, is interested in Finnish culture, and intends to attend a language class.
While a few hours' work as a nanny is acceptable, Meriläinen notes that an au pair must not work full-time.
The transition period restricting the free movement of labour, which applies to the new member countries having joined the European Union in 2004, does not apply to au pairs.
When hiring an au pair, certain obligations relating to working hours, annual holidays, and payment of salaries are to be complied with.
According to the estimates of the Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate of Uusimaa, a reasonable minimum salary for an au pair working 30 hours a week would be EUR 940 per month. Including the employer charges, the total salary would be close to EUR 1,300 per month.
The total number of au pairs in Finland is difficult to estimate, but apparently it is growing.
An au pair is a 17-to-30 year-old foreign person who lives in a family and studies a foreign language and culture. An au pair can do domestic work including child care for up to 30 hours a week at the most. Apart from pocket money, an au pair is entitled to accommodation, food, a language course, and bus tickets.