One of the problems that is most concerning for the strategists of the Cuban economy, society’s aging, was confirmed by the 2012 Population and Housing Census, whose data was released by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) in early November.
With 18.3 percent of its population over 60 years of age, Cuba is already one of the most aged countries of Latin America, but judging by the growing evolution of that indicator, the country is pointing to occupying that throne in the midterm.
Meanwhile, experts are warning that the population is decreasing. The convergence of both tendencies presents difficult challenges for the government and the nation as a whole, from the social and economic point of view, due to the reduction of the working-age population and the simultaneous increase of the sector needing sustenance and care.
The national director of the census study, Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, said to the daily Granma that the study ratified what the annual demographic estimates that had been observing in relation to the contraction of the country’s total population. The Census, carried out in September 2012, registered 10,418 Cubans less than the previous research of this type 10 years ago. The population is decreasing in 97 of the municipalities, 58.1 percent of the total.
While the inhabitants are decreasing in Cuba, persons aged 60 or more have increased to 2,041,392, 18.3 percent of the total. Compared to this, only 17.2 percent are aged between zero and 14. The most aged provinces are Havana and the central Villa Clara and Sancti Spíritus. One more data confirms the aging tendency: the average age of the population increased by 38.8 years, while a decade ago that indicator stood at 35.1 years.
Another demographic study, the National Aging Survey, carried out in 2010 by the Centre for Population and Development Studies (CEPDE), a part of ONEI, anticipates that in barely two decades Cuba will be the most aged country of Latin America.
The statistical projections also foresee that by the year 2025 the Cuban population will decrease to 11,029,033 persons, and they forecast that in 2030 it will be less than 11 million (10,904,985).
When the government presented the first general results of the Census after a meeting of the Council of Ministers carried out in late September, it acknowledged the need to adopt urgent measures to face that demographic phenomenon, like the construction and repair of homes for the elderly and the so-called grandparent’s homes, dedicated to the care during the day of persons with an advanced age.
According to data of the Public Health Statistical Yearbook, at the close of 2012 there were 144 homes for the elderly in the country and 233 grandparents’ homes, the majority of which, as happens in a great deal of the housing fund, present serious construction problems and are in need of repairs. The current demand for these institutions is much higher than the existing capacities and are more limited to handicapped elderly persons, the Council of Ministers recognised.
With capacity for 7,398 persons, the grandparents’ homes are facing a demand estimated at more than 20,000.
In the report published at the time, Marino Murillo, government vice president, left open the possibility of “encouraging the non-state work” for the care of senior citizens.
The growing aging of the Cuban population puts a healthcare system that traditionally had prioritised children and pregnant women in a tense situation. As a consequence, today it has, by a wide margin, a larger amount of pediatricians or gynecologists than geriatricians. According to the Health Statistical Yearbook, in 2012 Cuba had 816 specialists devoted to neonatology and 2,791 pediatricians, as compared to barely 485 geriatricians.
The latent threat of the reduction of the economically active population also puts at risk the social security system and its expenditures.
The most recent Census indicates that the working-age sector has increased to 5,022,303 persons, which represents 54.3 percent of the total population between 15 and more years of age. The government decision to extend the retirement age by five years has had an influence in this: for women it is 60 years of age and for men it is 65 years of age.
But that measure, approved in 2009 for its gradual introduction in the face of an already evident problem, has only postponed some five years the conflict’s peak.
According to CEPDE studies, between 2020 and 2025 the population that arrives at a working age (17) will be surpassed by the one that reaches the retirement age. The advance toward society’s aging or the problems derived from that tendency are not stopped.
The CEPDE’s projections forecast that the population strip aged 60 or more will grow to 3.6 million in 2025, with “a notable burden for social security, the healthcare system and the availability of labour force,” warns a forecast made by that institution in 2010 and whose tendency has been confirmed by the 2012 Population and Housing Census. (2013)
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