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Posted May 31, 2008 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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Many Cubans don’t work, at least officially

Miami Herald

Loraicys is 27 years old, has never worked, and refuses to take just any job. She is not alone.

As Raúl Castro embarks on an ambitious plan to kick-start the communist nation’s economy, he faces daunting challenges: Many Cubans simply do not work.

Decades of measly salaries and vast government subsidies have kept many young people off the labor rolls because it’s more lucrative to hustle on the street. Others live comfortably enough off remittances from Miami and elsewhere.

Loraicys passes on neighborhood janitor positions in hopes of higher-paying work at nearby resort hotels, where she also would have a chance of earning tips in dollars.

‘‘I am not going to tell you something different: there are jobs here in Cárdenas where I live. Doing what? Cleaning hospitals for 150 pesos ($7) a month,’’ said Loraicys, a single mom. ``For 150 pesos, I would rather stay home with my kid. I am willing to work really hard, but not for nothing in return.’‘

While Cuba struggles to increase productivity, it must also find a way to entice hundreds of thousands of people to get a job. The dilemma is one of the profound systemic difficulties Castro faces as he tries to create a so-called modern socialist economy.

The government says there are plenty of jobs—just low-paying ones Cubans won’t take. Even educated professionals would rather work in the tourist industry as waiters or taxi drivers, which earn far more money than state jobs that usually offer about $10 a month.

Loraicys said she has blanketed all the state agencies that run tourist resorts near her home with résumés, but she lacks the high school diploma required for even menial work. So she spends most days hanging out in front of her house, watching horse-and-buggies go by in this Colonial city east of Havana known as Ciudad Bandera, because it is where the national flag was first raised on May 19, 1850.

‘‘If Raúl Castro wants to crack down on people who do not work, then he should offer real jobs,’’ said Loraicys. ``Don’t you think people would prefer to have independence, to have something they can be proud of?’‘

Officially, Cuban government figures show its unemployment rate is just 1.9 percent, the lowest in Latin America. At the same time, government statistics show just 4.8 million of the 6.7 million working age people are ‘‘economically active.’’ And a survey conducted by the state-run Juventud Rebelde newspaper showed that just in Guantánamo province, on the eastern tip of the island, there were 18 times more unemployed people than official figures reflected.

The National Bureau of the Young Communists League said 90 percent of unemployed youth would like to go to school or work if they found ``acceptable options.’‘

According to Granma, the communist party newspaper:

• 20 percent of the working age population in Havana is unemployed.

• Nearly half of them turn down jobs when they are offered.

• 17 percent of the more than 17,000 recent technical school graduates did not show up for the jobs they were offered. Another 200 of them stopped coming in after a few months.

‘‘Unfortunately there is not an inconsiderable segment… READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

  1. Follow up post #1 added on June 02, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    I think one could argue that this is the most critical issue facing Cuban’s leadership: how to provide for the next generation, especially the next generation in the workforce.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on June 02, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    its one of the sadnesses of cuba.  probably has among the best educated workforce in the world , but no challenging jobs for them - no challenge in the jobs available and no challenge in fair compensation. 
    Giving Cubans cell phones, computers, and what not is small stuff compared to this challenge (its also directly linked to the dual currency system, which in itself is a tough nut to crack.
    But at least under Raol, its recognized as something that needs addressing; under Fidel it was either “no problem” or “so what”

  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 27, 2008 by Javier

    The Cuban people are willing work, which is the important thing.  They’re also willing to start their own small businesses as shown by the emergence of paladares and small stands the last time the government allowed people to start their own businesses .  If private business is allowed to flourish in Cuba and the country can negotiate an end to the embargo, wages across industries will rise.  If Cubans still won’t take those jobs, then there are Spanish speakers across Latin America that will.

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