“IN MY CASE, FIRST THEY ELIMINATED ALL THE ADVANTAGES AND, ONCE THEY STOPPED PAYING, THEY STARTED FIRING PEOPLE.”
This is how Fernando, a worker in a state run business, explained a few days ago to “14yMedio” the u advance of unstoppable unemployment rate in Cuba, and specifically in his province. He added that all companies are applying the downsizing mechanism.
True, the unemployment boom is so overwhelming that last May the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) recognized that in the last two years in Cuba 231,000 jobs were lost, and of them 194,689 in the private sector, that is, 84% of the total.
Although the ONEI does not clarify it, that figure includes the self-employed and their employees whose businesses have gone bankrupt; those who are tired of so much abuse and those who have emigrated.
Shortly before, the regime published the results of the 2022 National Employment Survey (ENE); and without saying it clearly, it reveals that the flight of workers from state enterprises is due to low wages that often fail to cover the basic needs of families. There are companies with available positions for engineers and other professionals, but they are not covered because they have emigrated.
HALF OF THE ENTIRE WORKFORCE IS FORMALLY UNEMPLOYED
The ENE reports that there are 9,363,826 people over 15 years of age in Cuba, of which 4,680,928 work, to which are added 84,700 people looking for work, and both figures added together show an Economically Active Population (EAP), of 4,765,628 citizens. Although the survey does not mention it, it is clear that in the third decade of the twenty-first century there are 4.6 million people in Cuba able to work who do not have a formal job.
Not only that, the survey shows that 53% of young people between 15 and 35 years old do not work or study, they are unemployed, at least officially. The slogan of the UJC is “Study, Work and Rifle“. Today it sounds like a joke, it smells of ridiculousness.
How can there not be a devastating economic crisis? Cuba is a country in which half of the working-age population does not work, neither for the State, nor for the permitted private sector, or MSMEs.
THEY SELL “ON THE SIDE” WHAT THEY CAN NEGOTIATE OR “SOLVE”
A part of the Cuban labor limbo is made up of housewives, retirees, students, elderly abandoned to their fate, or chronically ill disabled. That’s normal.
What is not normal is that this “Industrial Reserve Army” (EIR), as Marx contemptuously calls it in “Capital“, is made up of half of the nation’s entire labor force, forced to “invent” and sell/barter “on the side” in order to eat and survive. They sell what they can steal or negotiate with private farmers and state employees can get. Also, part of those who receive remittances from abroad, travelers and “mules” who feed the black market.
It is sad to see in the photos and images that come from Cuba how streets and parks are full of people who talk, make stories, play dominoes on the sidewalk or in the street, or frolic with the very skinny dog next to them. They don’t work. Of course, many swarm the streets because they are in the necessary “bisne pa’resolver“. It is unthinkable to see something similar, not only in Switzerland, but in any other country in Latin America.
The exact figure of unemployment in Cuba is not possible to know. There is no how. The dictatorship offers a blatantly reduced for political reasons. But judging by the loose data given by the regime, everything indicates that currently the unemployment rate in Cuba does not fall below 43%, or 45%, or more.
MORE BUREAUCRATS AND SOCIAL WORKERS THAN PEOPLE PRODUCING
Compare Colombia’s 11.3%, the highest unemployment rate in Latin America in July 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or Mexico’s 3.3%. In Brazil it is 8.2%, Chile (8.3%), Argentina (7.6%). In Spain (11.7%), Germany (3.0%). In the United States last July (2023) it was 3.5%
Moreover, the IMF itself specifies that the highest unemployment rate known worldwide in June (2023) was that of South Africa, with 35.6%. That is, there is more unemployment in Cuba than in the global champion country in terms of unemployment.
The ENE survey also reveals the pernicious bureaucratic and unproductive macrocephaly typical of the communist system. Cuba being a poor, agricultural and underdeveloped country, some 780,000 workers work in the fields, and in the huge bureaucratic apparatus of the Communist Party and the State, and in the free Public Health and Education, 1.4 million people work, a figure that doubles that of those who produce (or should produce) to provide food and everything they consume or use assuming their countrymen are not linked to material production.
In short, to insist that the Cuban economy is heading towards collapse is no exaggeration. It is no longer a question of if, or not, but when. And hopefully they have not also left Fernando from Sancti Spiritus on the street.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roberto Álvarez Quiñones (Cuba). (Cuba). Journalist, historian, economist, professor. Author of eight books published in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the USA (“Cuba: jump to the Middle Ages”, 2020, and “Cuban medieval prints”, 2010). He was editor and columnist of the newspaper “La Opinión” of Los Angeles for 12 years. Economic analyst at Telemundo (TV, California) 7 years. He is a member of the Academy of History of Cuba in Exile. He was a professor at the University of Havana and the Higher Institute of International Relations. He has lectured in Latin American and European countries. He worked in the newspaper “Granma”, and in Cuban TV as an international commentator. He previously worked at the National Bank of Cuba and the Ministry of Foreign Trade (MINCEX). He has won 11 journalism awards. He writes for Hispanic media in the U.S. and Latin America. He resides in Los Angeles, California.