Cuba, an Aging Island / Ivan Garcia
Ivan Garcia, Translator: Unstated
The figures are disturbing. For over 30 years the Cuban women, on
average, have less than one daughter by the end of their reproductive
years.An aging population without any replacements.And it is only
decreasing. BecauseCuba has begun to subtract inhabitants in absolute terms.
This conclusion came as a report from the National Bureau of Statistics
in 2011. Add the ages of the three strongmen of the country, both
Castros and Machado Ventura, and it totals 249 years. To add more drama
to the aging population, annually more than 20,000 people aged between
10 and 45 years emigrate from Cuba.
One solution the Cuban government has come up with to fight the high
ages and shrinking size of the population is to raise the retirement age
for men and women to 60 and 65 years respectively.
A retired person earns a salary in Cuba, between 100 and 300 pesos (5
and 16 dollars) and that does not even cover 30% of their needs. For a
citizen to have a breakfast and two meals a day requires no less than
2,500 pesos a month (113 dollars).
We also have the grave problem of the living quarters. Some 62% of the
houses on the island are in either regular or bad state of repair. Three
or four different generations have to live under the same roof.
When space is needed in the living quarters, the displaced are usually
the elderly. The best option is for the grandparents to have to sleep
with the grandchildren. The worst is that the family decides to put them
in some run down State asylum.
There's no worse lead up to death for an old person than to live in a
State hospice. Badly treated, lack of hygiene and poor food. Already
last year, more people died in Cuba than were born.
Obviously the haphazard and weak economy is not prepared to guarantee a
decent life for the two million people over 60.
If currently the average age in Cuba is 38, in 2025 it will be 44.
Almost 26% of the population will be over 60. By 2030, 3.3 million
people will be over 60.
Today the group of Cubans older than 60 is 17.8%. It is more than the
number of children ages 0 to 14 which is 17.3%. The ideal would be to
promote policies to motivate women to have two or more children.
In Europe, the benefactor state usually pays a stipend to mothers with
children. But the public coffers in Cuba are just about empty.
Since General Castro inherited power from his brother, the construction
and social and leisure facilities for the population has dropped to
almost zero. They only invest in projects that return hard currency,
like tourism, or strategic projects such as petrochemicals or the
transfer of water to the eastern region.
Therefore, one should not expect that at a meeting of the monotone
National Parliament they will announce a cash incentive to encourage
women to have more than one child. The accelerated aging in Cuba is a
phenomenon that will have to be dealt with by a future government. By
2025 the Castro brothers will rest in a mausoleum or be two infirm
elderly nearing the century mark.
The next president, in addition to aspiring to spectacular economic
growth, will have to try to renegotiate the foreign debt and try to
design a coherent society, inclusive and democratic.
All this work should be undertaken with an aging human capital. And the
growing segment of women, professional or otherwise, who due to material
scarcities put off forming a family.
To convince them that Cuba needs rejuvenation and more daughters would
be a commendable task. We'll see whether in ten years leaving for
Florida continues to be the personal quest of many Cubans. Hopefully not.
September 22 2012