Cuba’s New Domestic Servants
May 7, 2013
HAVANA TIMES — “People are hiring housemaids again. My health isn’t what
it used to be, but, if it were, mark my word, that’s what I’d be doing
right now. I have no money,” a woman over 60, who lives in Havana’s
neighborhood of Guanabacoa, told me at a bus stop.
She was referring to the occupation of “Domestic Servant”, one of the
several forms of self-employment which have proliferated in Cuba in
Working as a maid has become one of the most sought-after ways of
improving one’s economic situation among Cuban women. Young or old,
these women understand that whoever is willing to pay for this service
has already improved their own situation.
“Times are rough”, as people are wont to say, and, right now, meeting
one’s daily needs, or, better said, keeping up with the cost of living,
means taking on at least two decently-paid jobs.
Are there more people employed as household servants than, say,
cafeteria waiters today? I couldn’t say, for it’s a social phenomenon
which arose as a black market activity and was outside State regulation
for very long, as is the case of babysitting.
Recently, a friend called me to ask me what I knew about these jobs.
She’s worked a State job for over 25 years and now wants to retire and
start working as a housemaid, having been offered to work in a household
with two children who are of school-age.
She almost made a terribly uninformed decision, though, because she was
willing to work for 360 regular Cuban pesos a month, which, in her mind,
added up to 15 CUCs (16.50 USD), a sum she must work hard to put
together. Many have made such rash decisions, to the benefit of many
others, I dare say.
The market, you see, has already imposed a standard rate. There are
people who pay 45 CUCs a month or 20 a week for unplanned work, and even
up to 5 a day in extraordinary situations. The amount also varies across
neighborhoods, for, as one might expect, households in Vedado, Nuevo
Vedado or Miramar – where incomes tend to be higher – pay differently
than those in Lawton, San Miguel del Padron or other neighborhoods far
There are families who pay from 75 to 100 Cuban Convertible Pesos for
domestic work, which often includes preparing breakfast and one
additional meal for the whole family, grooming and taking the kids to
school (as well as preparing their lunches and picking them up after
school). It also involves cleaning the house, washing all of the dishes
used throughout the day and/or doing the laundry (a task which may or
may not be entrusted to someone else).
The people hired for this kind of work usually have to spend all day
doing these chores and cannot take on other jobs. In some cases, their
own homes are very far from where they work and it’s simply not
practical to leave before the end of the workday.
So, that’s where things stand right now. One thing is certain: if there
are more and more people looking for these kinds of jobs, it means there
are more and more people who have the economic means to employ them.