Backpackers on the Sunshine Coast during the coronavirus pandemic are finding work as au pairs. Photo: File
Backpackers on the Sunshine Coast during the coronavirus pandemic are finding work as au pairs. Photo: File

Backpackers come to the rescue of families in need

PARENTS struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance have found an unlikely saviour during the coronavirus crisis.

With restrictions currently confining a number of families inside their homes during the school and work week, juggling a job and children at the same time has proved difficult for many.

This dilemma has resulted in a dramatic increase of au pair ads, with Sunshine Coast start-up Backpacker Job Board recording a 100 per cent rise in the jobs on its platform.

Founder Matthew Heyes said while a large portion of backpackers returned home after the pandemic began, there were still travellers desperately searching for work on the Coast.

ADAPT OR JOIN THE QUEUE: AREAS AT RISK OF COVID JOB LOSSES

“In normal times, the types of jobs that come through are working as a farm hand … fruit picking in the agricultural sector, those are kind of the bread and butter,” he said.

“And then as soon as the restrictions came in from COVID, most of those jobs, in fact most jobs in general just disappeared the week they started.”

With the hospitality industry also recording a dramatic decrease, Mr Heyes said the combination of families and backpackers joining forces had come at the ideal time.

“It’s a rare win-win situation in these trying times,” he said.

Matthew Heyes and his wife Sophie, with their two children Devon Rose and Anouk, outside their home in Maleny.
Matthew Heyes and his wife Sophie, with their two children Devon Rose and Anouk, outside their home in Maleny.

“Along with work, you get accommodation and food and then in return, Australian families get child care, domestic care and more.”

The benefits of hiring an international au pair could also extend far beyond housework or childcare help, Mr Heyes said.

“There’s a cultural exchange going on too which is really enriching and certainly something that backpackers are keen to get involved in,” he said.

EDUCATION INDUSTRY BEGINS TO REBUILD DESPITE DAMAGE

“There are some who have educational qualifications and are out here on a gap year, so they’re really useful and on top of that, backpackers have also done a lot of teaching English as a second language.”

Although students have now returned to school, Mr Heyes said the demand for au pairs would remain strong as parents continue to work from home.

“There’s still a lot of people working remotely and see that as a resolution for a long-term situation,” he said.

“At first it was quite scary to think that the whole travel and tourism sector is going to take a huge hit from what’s going on globally, but if we get a few wins in the meantime, then it’s great.”



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