Cuban population, birth rate falling: official
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 3:12 PM
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba's population declined in 2006 for the first time
in 25 years due to fewer births, the Communist Party newspaper Granma
said on Wednesday.
The Cuban population dropped last year by about 4,300 to 11,239,536
inhabitants, according to official statistics.
The number of births dropped to 111,084 in 2006 from 120,716 a year
earlier, an 8 percent decline, the country's top demographic expert,
Juan Carlos Alfonso, told Granma.
Cuba's populace is aging fast and there is a marked rise in the number
of people aged 60 and over compared to other age groups, Alfonso said.
Women are deciding to have fewer children, said Alfonso, director of
population studies at the National Statistics Office.
On average, Cuban families tend to have only one child. The country has
faced economic hardships and overcrowded housing since it lost the
support of the Soviet Union 15 years ago.
The government traces the falling birth rate to its policy of providing
free contraceptives, mainly condoms, which are used by 70 percent of
Cubans aged 15 to 44.
Rising life expectancy — now at 77 years — has given Cuba the
demographics of the industrialized First World even though it is a Third
World nation, officials say.
Today, 16.2 percent of the Cuban population is 60 or over, according to
the National Statistics Office. The agency estimated that about
one-quarter of the Cuban populace will fall into that category by 2025.
That is a worrying statistic for any society because it means a smaller
working population and escalating costs for the state in health care and
Wealthier countries solve the problem with immigration. In Cuba's case,
emigration has been a constant since Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959
steered the country to Communism.