An Expert Asks for Help From the Private Sector To Serve the Aging Population of Cuba

The population over 60 years of age exceeds 23% in Sancti Spíritus / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 10 April 2024 — Demographic problems can be alleviated through collaboration with private companies, according to the interview that the newspaper Escambray published this Wednesday with Antonio Aja Díaz, director of the Center for Demographic Studies of the University of Havana. The expert states that it is necessary to pay attention to the dynamics of a very aging population, and, for this, resources are needed that the State does not have.

“Non-State forms are within the socialist economy of this country, and they are taxed as an element of our economy; why, then, not think about the repair or construction of a grandparents’ house, a maternal home, a children’s daycare center with the resources provided by the non-State economy?” he asks rhetorically, adding that it is also a matter of “sensitivity” and “intelligence.”

“There is a lot of deficit attached to objective material problems of the economy, and greater actions are needed to try to solve these difficulties. If we work to fix a television, a fan; if we get the water running, provide gas, solar heaters, we are solving a group of problems. This can be done with a State budget but also with a budget that is not from the State economy,” he insists.

“Non-State forms are within the socialist economy of this country, and they are taxed as a social element of our economy  

The specialist, with a doctorate in Science, is concerned about the demographic situation of the Island in general and Sancti Spíritus in particular. The province is third highest in Cuba for its aging population, with 23.3% of its inhabitants over 60 years old, compared to 24.6% in Villa Clara, which is first. Aja Díaz explains why it is important to know in detail the demographic situation, and he highlights the importance, when developing a social economic strategy in the territory, of detecting needs and organizing resources.

Despite this, the population census, which should have been carried out in 2022 – the previous one is from 2012 and is carried out every ten years – has been postponed to the beginning of 2025, due to the lack of resources. After different dates provided, Diego Enrique González Galbán, director of the Center for Population and Development Studies, said that the study was approved for the first quarter of that year. “That’s the official date,” he said.

When the census is finally carried out – whether or not at the scheduled time – it will be possible to see the devastating effect of migration, which in the last two years alone has taken some 400,000 Cubans to the United States, added to which are the thousands who went to Spain, Mexico and other countries as well.

Aja Díaz is conspicuous during the interview with Escambray, which moves away from the scientist’s position to align with the Regime’s discourse, according to which emigration in Cuba “is circular” and people “come and go.” The reality is that the Island’s population has stagnated in the last 30 years, and the forecast is that it will decrease by up to 18% in the next three decades.

“The policy is to encourage many more to return, to work in two societies, in two spheres, without this being a problem, which at another time it was, but today the situation is different. Cuba does not have many alternatives other than looking for that circularity,” insists the expert. He also emphasizes that labor mobility to the private sector is depreciating the State professions that were previously considered more prestigious.

“Today, due to the economic situation of Cuba and the alternatives of the non-State economy, we are seeing a great mobility of professionals from the public spheres to the private; it’s a phenomenon that is happening in the Health sector and in others,” he adds.

“We are seeing a great mobility of professionals from the public spheres to the private; it’s a phenomenon that is happening in the Health sector and in others   

Aja Díaz specifies that the prevalence of adolescent pregnancies is a priority problem in Sancti Spíritus, which coexists with a low birth rate on average. “Girls at very young ages of life get pregnant and have children, and the saddest thing is that the families allow it and in some cases promote it.” The expert – who does not take into account that these cases occur more in vulnerable and unstructured families – points out that many organizations could get involved to alleviate this problem, including the Federation of Cuban Women, social workers, doctors and teachers, he says, without mentioning that the shortage of contraceptive methods contributes to the problem.

“You have to look for all possible births, but not at the expense of adolescent fertility (…). We can’t expect that girls stop at such an early age; if it’s on that basis, it’s preferable to keep decreasing,” he says forcefully. According to data from the National Office of Information and Statistics, in 2022 there was an average of 1.14 children per woman from 15 to 54 years old, and 0.79 children per man, but far from analyzing factors of an economic nature, the expert continues to compare Cuba to developed countries.

“Contrary to what one might think, in societies with more economic and social development, fewer births occur. This does not happen in more backward, marginal societies. To the extent that the economy improves, society improves; reproductive behavior decreases because it is socialized, women are dignified, and family planning is much better,” he says, although he admits that it’s not something positive for the Island, especially since emigration also reduces the population.

Cuba’s demographic data are worrying in their economic and social focus. More and more people depend on pensions that are impossible to pay with the decreasing number of workers on the Island. Earlier this year, a government decree came into force that reduces the amount of the highest pensions “in order to mitigate the expenses of the social security budget.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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