Unemployment Tripled in Sancti Spiritus in the Midst of a Crisis in the Cuban Labor Market

Sancti Spíritus faces a growing demand for workers, but industrialists are forced to cease hiring due to a lack of production caused by shortages. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 9 August 2023 — “The low availability of work in the companies that hire us caused our workforce to be reduced,” says Fernando, who works in a state industry in Sancti Spíritus. According to his experience, all companies are applying the workforce reduction mechanism to increase efficiency. “In my case, they first eliminated all the advantages, and once they stopped paying us, they began laying off people,” he said.

It’s one of the many faces of the crazed reality of employment in Cuba, where unfilled positions coexist with a lack of work to be done, along with tiny numbers of unemployed and high numbers of those who do not want to work and desperate attempts to rehire retirees to reduce spending on pensions and have more taxpayers while hundreds of thousands of young people leave. All this against a background of informal employment impossible to quantify.

The issue was addressed on Tuesday in an article published in the official newspaper of Sancti Spíritus, Escambray, which took as a reference point the data from the most recent National Employment Survey to analyze the complex issue. To work or not to work, that is the question, headlines the newspaper, resorting to Shakespeare. With regard to the data from May, there is hardly any novelty, but the numbers are no less important. According to the newspaper, the unemployment rate in the province has tripled in recent years, going from 0.5% to 1.6% (1.7% in fact, if the source is consulted).

The amount represents only 3,400 people, a figure that the media does not consider alarming, although it supposes the consolidation of a growth trend caused by the constant layoffs in State companies that are ruined by the lack of raw materials. Temporary closures and reconversions contribute to this panorama that has left, in one year, around 2,300 people in the “process of availability,” as the authorities called it last year when announcing the wave of layoffs that was coming.

All in all, the numbers of unemployed people in Cuba are a speck of dust. The authorities count in this group the people who have lost their jobs, but the drama is in the inactive people who are not looking for work. That number represents a total of 54,028 people in Sancti Spíritus, among whom are those engaged in “housework,” study or simply have no interest in working. The figure could also include those who are in the informal market and simply do not declare their employment status.

To these are added the more than 16,000 who do want to find a job and, finally, the so-called “disheartened,” a total of 2,731 people in the province who “abandoned the search for a job because they think they won’t find one.” In total, that comes to 70,200 economically non-active people in Sancti Spíritus.

So far this year, 2,230 people have applied for work through placement offices, but Escambray recognizes that a “significant number” of Cubans end up joining the informal sector. The newspaper reports that 459,000 people reside in the province, of which 198,600 (43.2%) are considered the economically active population.

The text mentions that the high cost of living has forced people to redouble their efforts to find work. Given this scenario, State companies are the least attractive for the unemployed, not only because private companies pay better salaries, but because of the high risk of dismissal posed by working with the State, which is forced to reduce its staff due to the critical shortage of inputs.

According to statistics cited by Escambray, 50% of the unemployment rate in the province is made up of Cubans under 45 years of age, who, according to the newspaper, are those with the highest work performance. In contrast, 3% of those over 65 are active in the labor market, and this provides an “incentive” to take advantage of their experience.

Escambray suggests more actively promoting measures to increase productivity, such as reinstating already retired people and allowing an employee to have up to two jobs, which clashes with the reality of the existence of jobs in many sectors. The industries with the most labor adjustments correspond to the transport, construction, trade, food and dairy and meat production sectors, where the shortage of raw materials is more recurrent.

The provincial newspaper recognizes that employment in the State sector decreased this year not so much because of the closure of industries, but because there are more private companies “with more attractive proposals by their considerable salaries.”

The lack of personnel to fill jobs is a recurring theme in the official press. Last May, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information reported that in the last two years, 231,000 jobs have been lost, of which the private sector accounted for 194,689 (a 13% drop) and the State sector, 36,675 (a contraction of just 1%).

The Government recognizes that the flight of human capital from State companies is due to low wages that often fail to cover the basic needs of families. It also says that there are companies with openings, such as for engineers, but they cannot be filled because there is no availability in the market due to migration.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.