The Failure of the Cuban Communist Regime’s Employment Policy

Granma masthead, headline and illustration. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 23 October 2022– Cuba’s official State newspaper Granma describes the more than 152,000 people who have joined the workforce in the non-state sector of the economy as a success and linked it to the measures to diversify society’s economic actors implemented in the country over the last several years. Neither one, nor the other. Enough of the propaganda, let’s get to objective conclusions that can be obtained from these data.

The labor market in Cuba continues to be dominated by the communist economy, the increase in employment is insufficient and the new economic actors, estimated at 5,500, have not played as large a role as was expected in terms of creating jobs. The results lead, if you will, in a different direction.

It’s all the same, the official communist periodical celebrates as a success the 152,373 people who, by the end of August, had joined the country’s labor force; of those, 123,321 are not associated with an employer, according to data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS).

The weight of the state sector on employment continues to be great and does not allow the private sector to close the gap. Even so, the job offers for those 44,619 were in public sector organizations; 107,754 in the non-state sector, of which 101,461 were self-employed, 4,491 in other forms of private business, while 1,802 benefitted from being allowed to use state-owned fallow land.

This increase in non-state employment, clearly insufficient, is purported to be associated with the measures to diversify society’s economic actors implemented in the country over the last several years. However, in reality, those data mask the requirement imposed on self-employed workers with more than three employees that they register as a ’mipyme’ (a microenterprise) if they want to continue operating legally. A good proportion of the employment created is related to the measures imposed by the regime to “whitewash” the data about the process of creating new actors.

Thus, highlights Granma, that of the people identified, 38% are people younger than 35 years of age and 31% women, while among those who are not employed, 44% are women and 29% young people.

A good example of the mediocre data presented by the ministry can be found in the comparison with the same period the previous year. If this is the case, the increase in those entering the labor force was only 16,117 people.

What do these data tell us? They quickly confirm that the communist regime’s employment policy is another failure, it continues without adequate linkages to the rest of the regime’s political and social economy. In essence, one policy aimed at padding the staff rosters of state-funded businesses and organizations, where there is underemployment, and low levels of productivity which are not commensurate with the salaries received. The labor market in Cuba is non-existent, and does not comply with technical functions to satisfy the staff qualifications needed by the companies, and it is much less socially useful to guarantee workers suitable career paths.

The most glaring example of this failure can be found in the non-compliance with the Communist constitution of 2018 and of the so-called labor code, Law 116/2013, which establishes fundamental labor principles, such as the rights and social duties of citizens, implemented through the Decent Work Program. But in practice they lead to this situation of state underemployment which tends to reproduce itself over time, without creating adequate space for private activity.

The failure of the employment policy at MTSS and the institutions that comprise it, in combined with the demands of the national economy, and the local development strategy of each territory is evident in the denouncement of the few foreign investors who venture to operate in the country: that they cannot find qualified personnel for the positions they have on offer.

Similarly, with slim offerings in the private sector, which attempts to carve out a path in the country, many high-level professionals (doctors and researchers) prefer the salary of a waiter or cook to those they get from the state-funded sector. That is an absolute communist mess; their employment priorities from “those graduating from regular day courses at several levels of education, those graduating from active military service and other people of interest to the state, especially women, people in vulnerable situations, and those who serve their [criminal] sentences or security measures while free,” do not satisfy those people who yearn to develop professional careers based on what they know how to do.

Proof of the failed employment policy can be measured alternatively taking into consideration that, of the total of 4,770,000 employed workers in the state sector as well as the private, the latter barely total 1,600,000 or 34%, which has remained stable since Raúl Castro, around 2011, authorized the reduction of padded state staff rosters. The largest employment sector in Cuba continues to be the communist state, reaching up to 66%, higher than any other country in the world, as a paradigm of inefficiency, low competition and wasted resources.

The fact that only 1,802 Cubans have applied to rent land, which is the only semi-private formula the communist regime will authorize in Cuba, it is a good example that private formulas in Cuba continue to be lower than their true potential, and that in this environment, like many others, one must work and hard.

The article in Granma also offered some indications of how the regime intends to continue promoting “modalities of telework and remote work as one form of employment that benefits the organization as well as the employee,” including that “diversification of the work force, in a way that is more flexible than the in-person modality.”

Nonetheless, at the same time, the article clarified that “this model is not applicable to all job vacancies as it depends primarily on the duties performed by each worker at their work place, the position they hold, among other things.

In summary, for the directors, telework and remote work depends “also on the employer creating the conditions, control mechanisms, and watching out for the security and health of the employee and guaranteeing that, in this way, neither the employee nor his/her work will be affected.” That is, that the regime doesn’t have a clear strategy for telework either and they are spinning their wheels. In reality, the limitiation lies in the area of information technology and the capacity of the networks to allow working from home. And then there are the blackouts. What productivity could they possibly be talking about for a teleworker who spends 12 hours a day without electricity?

The regime is not up to the task to provide for innovation in labor policies. Meanwhile, the communists entertain themselves embroiled in the labor framework and now they want the ministry to lead, through collective labor agreements, a registry of the posts, which by their nature, could be conducted in telework mode or working remotely; in this way there is collegiality among workers, the sindicate and each employer organization. Bureaucracy, paperwork and an even bigger mess. The Cuban communist regime’s labor policy is a total failure.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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