In 2020 in Cuba 111,000 people died, and just 105,000 were born. The demographic crisis that the bureaucrats of the Cuban regime had anticipated for 2024 is already a reality. That is, the island's population is already dwindling.
When announcing this information, Marino Murillo, in charge of compliance with the PCC Guidelines, left out something key: besides the fact that more Cubans now die than are born, each year between 40,000 and 44,000 people emigrate, the overwhelming majority of them of working age, according to the Center for Demographic Studies at the University of Havana (CEDEM).
In other words, last year Cuba's total population did not contract by 6,000 (the difference between deaths and births) but rather some 50,000. It would be necessary to subtract the immigrants from this figure, but there were so few people crazy enough to do so that the figure is negligible. In short, the Cuban population, far from growing, is shrinking.
In 2099, Cuba may have just 4.5 million inhabitants
A country's fertility rate, also known as its replacement rate, is the number of children that women have, on average. Demographic science establishes that this average must be 2.1 children for every fertile woman in order for the population to remain stable, and not fall.
In Cuba, since 1979 the fertility rate has not reached 2.1, and it is currently 1.7 - the lowest in Latin America, a region where it is 2.06 children per woman according to the UN Population Fund and ECLAC. The fertility of Cuban women is also under the world average of 2.2 children.
In Mexico the rate is 2.2 children per woman, Argentina (2.3), Peru (2.4), Dominican Republic (2.4), Honduras (2.5), Paraguay (2.5), Ecuador (2.5) Panama (2.5), Bolivia (2.9) and Guatemala (3.0).
The World Bank (WB) estimates that, with its current replacement rate, at the end of the century Cuba's population will be 4.5 million, less than half what it is now. In contrast, in Panama the population will shoot from 3.9 million today to 6.9 million by the end of the 21st century; and in Peru, it will rise from 33.2 to 51.8 million. Ecuador will increase from 16.7 million to 18 million; Mexico, from 126.6 to 145.9 million.
The two main explanations given by the dictatorship for this population decline are that a low population growth rate is typical of advanced countries, which reflects the social development that Cuba has achieved thanks to the "Revolution." And that women have joined the workforce. These are specious arguments, and we will explain why.
A catastrophic combination: more retirees plus fewer people producing
To begin with, Cuba has the fastest-aging population in Latin America, yielding a dreadful equation featuring an inversely proportional relationship: in an increasingly poor country, on the brink of famine, the number of elderly is increasing while the population wanes, working to support the elderly and produce the goods and services that the country needs.
Not only do Cuban women not have the 2.1 children necessary for population replacement, but also, because of emigration, the country is constantly losing part of its Economically Active Population (EAP), that which produces goods and services.
Today the only population segment growing in Cuba is that made up of those over 60 years of age. They already constitute more than 21.3% of the population, according to the CEDEM. This figure is expected to rise to 25% by 2025, which will make Cuba the oldest country in all of Latin America.
Why are fewer and fewer people reproducing on the island? For two reasons: 1) women do not want to have children destined to be poor and suffer from hunger and needs of all kinds; and 2) citizens of working age do not have opportunities to improve their stations in life, or to earn fair salaries, so they leave the country. Thus, Cuba is losing the most precious asset that every society has: its human capital.
This is very serious. As the EAP gradually falls, Cuba will become poorer. Nor will it be possible to count on its emigrated human capital for the country's future reconstruction. Furthermore, with fewer people working, the state has fewer financial resources, so it neglects retirees and the elderly even more.
Low fertility rates in the First World ... but much more production
As for the Castroist explanation that a low fertility rate is synonymous with development, it must be recognized that in the First World women do have fewer children than in developing and poorer countries. According to the WB, in the European Union the fertility rate is 1.5. In Africa it is 4.7, and in Asia it is 2.32 births for every woman. In Spain it is 1.2, in Italy, 1.3; Germany, 1.5; France, 1.9; Sweden and the Czech Republic, 1.7.
That is true, but in these developed nations a market economy prevails, and the economically active population generates resources to support those who no longer work sufficient for them to enjoy a high, or at least an acceptable, standard of living, in general.
Moreover, in those nations many workers during their working lives manage to accumulate certain savings or assets, with a view to retirement. In fact, a good portion of the European and Canadian tourists who vacation in Cuba are retirees. These are people who, even after retiring, start their own businesses. They are self-financed, continue to be consumers, and boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of their countries, which strengthens their state social security systems.
In Cuba all this is impossible. Those who retire never had the capacity to save, or the opportunity to invest or create businesses, and their properties are dilapidated or on the verge of collapsing.
To make matters worse, they receive such meager pensions that they can hardly consume. They go hungry. Many of them wear tattered clothing. The "Revolution" turned its back on old Cubans a long time ago, and with Raul's "Ordering Task" they have been reduced to penury. When a Cuban worker retires, he becomes a burden for his own relatives, who have no way to help him.
Many retirees wander the streets in ragged, dirty clothes, hungry, with sadness engraved on their faces. They sell anything they can, or rummage through garbage cans to get their hands on anything to augment their pension of a measly 1,548 pesos (64 dollars) a month, on average. They clean toilets in public bathrooms so that they can then pay 250 pesos ($10.42) for a chicken on the black market.
In First World nations, the strategy to compensate for a low fertility rate is to encourage immigration, thereby expanding the labor force. But, who wants to go to Cuba, to suffer poverty and hunger, and where unemployment does not drop below 33%?
What a vivid contrast. Before being "liberated from imperialism" by the Castros, Cuba was a magnet for immigrants. The statistics from the former Ministry of Finance show that in just 28 years, from the proclamation of independence in 1902 to 1930, 1.3 million immigrants landed on the island, including 774,123 Spaniards, 190,046 Haitians, 120,046 Jamaicans, 34,462 Americans, 19,769 English, 13,930 Puerto Ricans, 12,926 Chinese, 10,428 Italians, 10,305 Syrians, 8,895 Poles, 6,632 Turks, 6,222 French, 4,850 Russians, 3,726 Germans, and 3,569 Greeks.
They all travelled to the Caribbean isle due to the country's economic boom, whether as investors, businessmen, professionals or employees. Today just the opposite is true. Socialist Cuba, coming apart at the seams, is one of the largest issuers of emigrants in the world, in proportion to its population. Many young people, with many years ahead of them as producers of wealth, leave the island, thus contributing to the well-being of other peoples, but not their own. The cruel military mafia in charge prevents them from doing so.
In summary, the demographic crisis caused by Castroism is more serious than the dictatorship recognizes, and it will worsen if economic freedom, and all the others to which every human being has a right in modern times, are not restored.