- REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
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 9.51 babies per 1,000 Cubans were born.
A depressed birth rate means two things: The population grows at a reduced pace, and the overall population is older.
Cuba is already seeing its population growth start to plateau. Plus, a large percentage of the population falls into the 40-to-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 in Cuba are expected to leave the work force than to join it; by 2026 more Cubans will die than be born; and by 2050 the number of people in Cuba 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.
- Andy Kiersz/Business Insider/data via the UN
But 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 $20 per month. With Cuba’s post-revolutionary push to educate its citizens, you 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 Cubans are 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 aging population.
Just as we see in other developed nations, more older people means more pension and healthcare costs but less people in the workforce sustaining all of it.