Cuba Will Lose One Million People In Next Decade / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton

Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)
Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — By 2025, the Cuban population will be reduced to 10 million. The dramatic demographic change on the island—from 11 million to 10 million inhabitants—is propelled by the low rates of fertility and birth, and an elevated emigration, a group of experts recently explained at Florida International University.

In addition, Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. Currently, 19% of its inhabitants are over 60, and forecasts indicated that this figure will reach 30% in less than a decade.

“Life expectancy is not the same as aging,” said Dr. Antonio Aja Diaz from the Center for Demographic Studies at the University of Havana. In Cuba, life expectancy is high and infant mortality is low. But birth and fertility are also low. These demographic characteristics, Aja said, “are processes that occur in highly developed countries.”

“In developed countries, mortality, birth and fertility are low, but they do not lose population because they receive immigration,” said Aja. “But that is not the case for Cuba.”

Until the late 1930s, the island was receiving immigrants. Since that decade, emigration has been sustained, with large fluctuations during mass exoduses of the past century—the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis of the 1990s—and most recently, the exodus through South America that still continues.

According to Aja, “Cuba could not even compete from the point of view of in-migration with the Dominican Republic,” with regards to attracting migrants. One of the main problems of the island is that people who migrate are generally younger and in the fullest years of their productive and reproductive capacity.

According to Dr. Sergio Diaz Brioquets, another panelist, emigration from Cuba is a phenomenon that will continue. “The Cuban government has for decades promoted emigration of the political opposition,” he said.

As for fertility, between 2010 and 2015 Cuba had an average of 1.63 children per woman, the lowest fertility rate in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The early years of the republic were years of high fertility and population growth, a trend that continued until 1930. Then began a process of decline until the years 1959-1960. In 1978, Cuba fell below replacement level, which is usually established as an average of 2.1 children per woman. On the island, the downward trend has continued to the present.

According to experts, the composition of the 10 million Cubans who will remain on the island in 2015 will bring a number of challenges, among them ethical values and interpersonal relationship. With regards to the family, and in particular Cuban women, they will face a series of responsibilities that will worsen with the aging population. “In Cuba, the job of caring for the elderly falls mainly on the woman,” explained Aja.

On the other hand, wages in the island have decreased to 73% of their real value, said Dr. Carmela Mesa Lago, a renowned expert on the Cuban economy. In addition, self-employed workers, a growing sector of the economy, are at risk of not accumulating pensions and not receiving social assistance.