More than half a million persons are self-employed in Cuba, according to a recent report by the Labour and Social Security Ministry published by several newspapers in the country. That figure confirms the importance that this form of employment has acquired since the government relaunched it in 2010, though the evolution has been slower than expected by the authorities.
In early June, 504,613 inhabitants had opted for private work in one of the more than 180 legally authorised activities. The preparation and sale of food, with 58,000 registered persons (11.5 per cent) and cargo and passenger transportation, with 51,526 (10.2 per cent) were the variants most in demand. They were followed by home, room and space rentals with 26,863 (5.3 per cent) and 24,000 telecommunications agents (4.6 per cent).
However, those indicators give similar recognition to the persons who are owners of small private enterprises (restaurants, construction contractors, owners of several means of transport) and to those who work hired by others. More than self-employed in the original sense of the term, these are persons who have a job or are wage earners in the private sector.
A bit more than a fifth of the total, that is, 113,360 (22.5 per cent), are workers hired fundamentally in businesses that prepare and sell food or in cargo and passenger transport.
In addition to the capital, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba are the provinces where the private sector has most developed. Those five provinces include two thirds of the persons registered as private workers.
It has undoubtedly been an employment alternative that has gained force in a country where the working population is estimated at some five million persons. But its development has been slower than forecasted by the government when it expanded, in October 2010, the legalised activities. At that time a bit more than 157,000 had joined the private sector, and in less than two years those authorised to carry out this type of work stood at 390,000. Later, during several years the figure stabilised at more than 400,000, despite the fact that the authorities had forecasted that the country would soon achieve the half million.
The option has found a favourable environment in the generations that are starting their working life. According to the official report, 155,605 private workers, 31 per cent, are young. The number of workers in state-run entities, 83,500, with a licence to simultaneously work as private workers is also growing, while 62,000 were pensioners before joining the self-employment sector. Out of the total, almost a third (154,756) are women.
Although for more than two years it has been showing a tendency toward stability at a level close to the current one, the performance reveals that it is an option that has found a favourable space in the Cuban labour environment. (2015)
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