Cuba has a demographic problem: people aren’t having enough babies.
The island nation’s birth rate has been falling since the 1970s. For 2013, only an estimated at 9.51 babies per 1,000 Cubans were born.
A depressed birth rate means two things: the population grows at a slower and slower pace, and the population is older overall.
Already, Cuba is seeing its population growth start to plateau. Plus, a large percentage of the population falls into the 40-60 age bracket, which means that in a few years, the younger generation will need to support a large number of retirees.
In fact, by 2021 more people are expected to leave the work force than join; by 2026 more Cubans will die than be born; and by 2050 the number of people over age 60 will reach 3.5 million, or 36% of the population, according to figures cited by the British Ambassador to Cuba Tim Cole.
However, the New York Times’ Azam Ahmed details several interesting socioeconomic and political issues at play here.
For starters, having kids is just too expensive in a country where the average state salary is $US20 per month. With Cuba’s post-revolutionary push to educate its citizens, you now have a bunch of literate people, without many job opportunities or great housing options, who are disincentivized to take on the financial burden of child-rearing when they could, instead, make some money.
The second issue here is that many Cubans are currently leaving the country in droves, which Ahmed attributes to the possibility that “warming relations with America will signal the end of a policy that allows Cubans who make it to the United States to naturalize.” In other words, if they’re not in Cuba, they can’t have kids in Cuba.
As an interesting sidenote, Ahmed also addresses the fact that abortion is “legal, free and commonly practiced,” in Cuba.
“In many respects
abortion is viewed as another manner of birth control
… But experts caution that the liberal abortion policy is not responsible for the declining population,” he is quick to add. “Rather, it is a symptom of a larger issue. Generally speaking, many Cubans simply believe they cannot afford a child.”
Still, the issue-at-large here is that it won’t be long before Cuba starts to feel the pangs of an ageing population.
Just as we see in other developed nations, more older people means more pension and health care costs, but less people in the workforce sustaining all of it.