Cuban Population still on the Decrease
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (ONE), in 2008, there were over 86,000 deaths and about 37,000 emigrated to other countries.
Despite the fast birth-rate recovery (10.9 births per 1,000 inhabitants), this figure doesn’t offset the gap let by deaths and emigrants.
“From the statistical standpoint, the Cuban population is stabilized. An increase or decrease by some thousands is not significant among 11 million inhabitants. However, the tendency does show an obviously marked decrease, if there is no reversal in the three factors- mortality, migration and fertility, which influence population growth,” noted the head of the Department of Population at the Center for Population and Development Studies in the National Statistics Office (NSO), Enrique González Galbán.
The Economic Council for Latin America stated that Cuba is the only Latin-American country whose population is on the decrease. While the region is reporting an average population growth rate of 1.3 per cent, in 2006 the island came down by 0.04 per cent. Since then, the values have been negative. In the last three years, the number of Cuban inhabitants has been reduced by 7,737 people. It is foreseen that by 2020 we will be nearly 25,000 people less than in 2008.
From 2006 on, the number of Cuban inhabitants has become an alarming concern all over again. This time, the very low number of births triggered this negative trend.
According to González Galbán, “the birth-rate values have been decreasing yearly. In 2006, the lowest level ever was reported, which turned out to be the greatest decrease in the last three years.”
When analyzing the proportion, there were 9.9 births per thousand inhabitants. In 1960, the proportion was three times higher.
In African nations like Niger, the values reach 7.6 children per woman; however, Cuba reported in 2008 a fertility of 1.5, the lowest in Latin America. The developed countries are the only ones with these figures. Europe has 1.4.
Gonzalez Galbán says: “there hasn’t been any replacement of the population in Cuba since 1977. It was the last year when women gave birth to two children on average. A population is not able to reproduce itself if this value is not exceeded. In 1978, this value was lower than two and we haven’t exceeded it since.”
Sociologist Clotilde Proveyer, a Havana University lecturer, explains the causes of such low fertility levels: “currently the Cuban woman can draw up a project of life, which does not always include motherhood as a number-one priority. Personal and professional achievements play an important role in a women’s life. This is motivated by gender politics implemented throughout these 50 years. Family planning through, both intrauterine devices and the possibility of miscarriages are also leading causes.”
In 2007, women made up 65.6 per cent of the professional workers and technicians of the country.
Finally, she notes: “economic factors like the lack of housing, difficulties in raising a baby and the additional expenses this actually involves, also have an influence.”
Source: Cuban National Statistics Office
The low birth-rate triggered the start of a demographic decrease. However, since 2007 an increased number of births has been reported, and still the figures continued on the decrease. An explanation for this is in the record figures of deaths. So, a fourth factor should be taken into account: aging of the population.
González Galbán explains: “currently those over 60 years old make up 17 per cent of the Cuban population, which influences on the increase of the mortality rate. A higher number of elderly brings the greater probability of death. That was what actually happened last year. In increase in old age, along with the low birth rate, usually leads to the death of more people and the birth of less children” By 2020, the senior citizens will make up 21.6 per cent of the population.
Almost 8,000 inhabitants less
Faced with the phenomenon of population decline the Government responded with the creation, in 2006, of the Group for the Treatment of the Demographic Tendencies. Summoned by the Ministry of Economy, 14 institutions participate, among them is the NOS. González Galbán talked about some of the measures discussed: «If before, in the TV Soaps, families appeared with one child, now we want them to appear with two or three children. That is to say, the creation of messages that stimulate more issue.
«For four years the father or another relative can obtain a maternity license to be able to take care of the new born child, which can be extended for another year. There are also other measures whose economic cost makes them impossible to be applied at this time, to help with the difficulties with the layette, the cradle, the pen and feeding».
What could the population decline mean for Cuba? Ávila Vargas offered his point of view: «For the economy it will mean a great challenge, because it will diminish the productive labor force, a phenomenon made worse by the aging population. People will have a bigger work load, and it will entail greater efficiency. Cuba is not Japan, a country where the automation of production permits better results with a smaller workforce. For us the challenge is generating more with less, and there we enter the game of innovation and greater efficiency in the use of existing means».
Cuba is already in the process of demographic transition, an event characteristic of developed countries. Will we get to 12 million? Will we continue declining? Will we stay stable? Only the future has the answers.
Source: Juventud Rebelde