Juventud Rebelde, a Cuban government-controlled daily on the island, came out with a two-part series recently on Cuba's plumetting fertility rates. I translated parts of it from Spanish and published excerpts below.
The stories represent a rare instance when the government-controlled media in Cuba has urged the government to implement policy changes of any sort. It spells out what seems like a demographic nightmare spreading on the island with dire consequences in the future if it is not immediately addressed.
“If in 10 years, we have not reached a coherent policy on reproduction, we’ll be seeing each other more often at funerals than at children’s birthday parties,” the JR article said.
In 1970, 237,079 babies were born in Cuba. In 2004, the number plummeted to 127,077. And there doesn’t appear to be a turnaround in sight.
“This means that by 2015, retirement-age Cubans will outnumber those who are active in the labor force, inverting the so-called dependency factor and the economy will be less healthy,” JR reported.
For Maria del Carmen Franco, specialist at the National Office of Statistics, which coordinates regional studies of reproductive health, Cuba has little time left – less than 10 years – to take measures, and “the only way is to increase the amount of births,” according to JR.
According to statistics, the population of young people in the country plunged by 800,000 people in the last 10 years.
But that worry has yet to be felt by the traditional families, experts say, because couples plan their children in terms of the possibilities of raising them, having a home, and their personal goals and not according to demographic criteria.
Cuba’s current measures to stimulate fertility are not enough, experts say. In other countries the problem is addressed by offering financial aid to couples, but in Cuba, the problem is “more complicated,” according to Franco.
“For us, the guarantee is not more money, but an entire infrastructure that supports the quality of life that we want for our children, and that includes more pediatricians, teachers, classrooms, nurseries, recreational spaces, better prices for food and baby products,” she said.
Those “are measures that the state should identify to organize its strategy for population growth,” she said.
In a national youth poll, the aspiration of young people to have children fell from third place to seventh in terms of priorities.
According to studies and polls, the current rejection of maternity and more children has several causes: the economic crisis that started in 1990, the lack of housing, internal and external migration, and widespread expectations among youth that things will improve, among other reasons.
Numerous interviews done by JR confirm that alarming reality: neither young men nor young women are interested in having children.