14ymedio, Madrid, 14 February 2023 — Cuba once again breaks its own record and achieves, in 2022, the lowest historical number of births in relative terms with 95,000, some 4,000 less than in 2021, the year in which 99,096 Cubans came into the world. The data became known this Monday through state television, which covered a meeting headed by the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, and which has been echoed by the country’s main media without revealing that number.
The official state newspaper Granma alludes to the “data shared at the meeting by Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, deputy chief of the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI),” without providing them, although it anticipates what the public already intuits, that “they are related to a decrease in the working age population and the economically active population, the increase in urbanization, despite the decrease in the urban population, and the average number of persons per household.”
ONEI was to have carried out Cuba’s population census in 2022, which, as in most countries, is conducted every ten years. Although it was initially scheduled to be carried out in September, Diego Enrique González Galbán, director of the Center for Population and Development Studies, confirmed in June that it was postponed due to lack of the necessary conditions and nothing more has been heard.
On that occasion, the official stated that the authorities were in possession of “consistent population figures every year, with a breakdown by sex and age, and openings at the national, provincial and municipal levels, as well as urban and rural areas.” According to these data, in March 2022, the Island had a population of 11,105,814, although the figure is flawed, since the hundreds of thousands of people who have emigrated in recent years have not been subtracted. According to the Migratory Law, Cubans lose their residency if they remain more than 24 months outside the Island, but by virtue of an exception created during the pandemic for those who could not return, currently the term is automatically extended.
The forecast, made years ago by the authorities, was that the population would decrease by more than 203,111 people by 2025, although the worsening of living conditions has accelerated — in the absence of figures — the demographic collapse. According to those calculations, already overtaken, about 26% of the population will soon be over 60 years old and those over 80, the age of life expectancy on the island, is expected to increase significantly.
Although the data on the country’s complicated demographic evolution are not yet available to the public, it has emerged from the committee’s meeting that the budget allocated to meet the needs of this growing population group will have to be increased. The budget is 869,670,000 pesos higher than last year’s and amounts to 2,113,000,000 pesos.
Among the priority issues to which the money will be allocated are dental and hearing prostheses, care for infertile couples and the modernization of equipment in assisted reproduction centers. In addition, there are also resources for the construction and maintenance of children’s circles, homes for the elderly and mothers, as well as homes for grandparents and for women with three or more children.
The situation, in particular, of the children’s daycare centers is worrying, since to date only 47% of the applications for places for the 2022-2023 school year have been granted, and 29,061 of the 53,447 applications submitted are still pending.
María de los Ángeles Gallo Sánchez, director of Early Childhood of the Ministry of Education, said that options are being sought to expand capacities, among them classrooms in primary schools and children’s houses, a modality that, according to the official, has not been “embraced” in the country, since there are only 67 on the Island with 2,187 places, with several provinces — which ones she did not specify — that lack them completely.
Marrero pointed out that the Ministry of Education has the most childcare centers, despite the call to other entities to support them with places in the children’s circles. “Everybody has to know the needs of their workers and look for solutions within the framework of this year,” urged the prime minister, who pointed out that just anyone cannot afford to pay for the child care services offered by self-employed workers.
“This is productive, because that mother eliminates one worry, goes to work and is more efficient, there is more family harmony, this is demographic dynamics,” said the leader.
The meeting also saw the presentation of a “Geriatrics and Gerontology Evaluation Kit” for medical centers containing a glucometer, digital blood pressure monitor and an oximeter, among other diagnostic and control tools, all of which are manufactured in Chile.
“This is a tremendous idea, a dream of what we want to have in all places, this is a basic module of what any center of attention to the population should have, because it is not only for the sick, it is also for studying the population, early diagnosis and follow-up,” said José Ángel Portal Mirada, Minister of Public Health, about these products commonly used in pharmacies and clinics outside Cuba.
According to the official press, the meeting was attended by Antonio Aja Díaz, director of the Center for Demographic Studies of the University of Havana, who “called attention to the need to ’make the information systematically provided on demographic dynamics our own, not only to know it, but also to master and control what each policy contributes to change that reality’.” In spite of this, the government has not made these indicators known to the population.
“Demographic issues are going to be solved in the medium and long term, and that is something important, we cannot be discouraged,” added the official with striking optimism in the midst of the largest exodus that has taken place on the island in the last 60 years.
Translated by: Hombre de Paz
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