The Story of the Wage Increases / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 6 November 2015 — Currently the minimum wage in Cuba is 225 Cuban pesos a month, which is the equivalent of about $10 US. In 1958 it was 85 pesos, equivalent to $85 US. If we compare both minimum wages, the current wage has dropped 75 dollars relative to 1985. The equivalent of 85 dollars is 2,040 current pesos, so Cubans, as a minimum wage, receive 1,815 pesos less (2,040-225=1,815) than before.

But the problem doesn’t end there: what we can buy today with the Cuban peso is infinitely less than what we could buy before. Let’s look at some examples: a can of condensed milk cost 20 centavos then; today it costs 29 pesos. A loaf of bread that cost 10 centavos, today is 10 pesos. A pound of pork was 18 centavos then, today it is 40 pesos. A pair of shoes was 8 pesos, today it is no less than 400. A pair of pants then was 7 pesos, and today 300. The list could go on forever.

So it is ironic, when in a report in some of the government media, an old worker remembers when he only earned 100 pesos a month during the Republican era, and today he considers himself favored because he earns 1,500. He doesn’t realize that to earn the equivalent today of what he earned then, he would have to receive 2,400 Cuban pesos. And that earning 1,500 pesos is receiving 900 less than before. And this without considering the low purchasing power of the Cuban peso explained above, due to the price increases on products.

To increase salaries with a devalued money doesn’t resolve the problem: it is nothing more than a false image of a quantitative improvement that does not improve the quality of life for our citizens. The increases realized in the salaries of doctors and athletes are a part of them: they represent the minimum salary of 1958.

Someone could argue that education and health care are free and make up for the differences. In reality those services are excessively paid for with what each citizen, over his entire working life, doesn’t receive every month.

In addition, we cannot forget that in 1958 there were public healthcare and education, supported by the State, to which all citizens had access. This, without mentioning that there were also private healthcare and education, that cost between 2.85 and 5 pesos a month for the health care, and between 2.50, 5 and 10 pesos for education, for those people who wanted to utilize them and whose personal economic resources allowed them to.