The truth about Cuba’s ‘self-employed’

There is a lot of speculation and misinformation regarding Cuba’s “cuenta propistas,” self-employed Cubans. There are not as many of them as the media would like you to believe with nearly 90% of workers in Cuba still “employed” by the state.

Elias Amor in Diario de Cuba:

In Defense of Cuba’s Self-employed

Despite the fact that in Cuba there are 580,828 self-employed workers, the category closest to entrepreneurship, the percentage is still paltry compared to the situation in other countries: of the 4,474,000 employees operating in the economy, only 13% are engaged in private economic activities, while 87% of Cuba’s workers depend on the State.

This is an anomaly with respect to economies around the world, where private employment invariably far outweighs State employment. For example, in Spain three million people work for the State, but the economy encompasses some 19 million workers, such that they account for just 15% of the total. Similar figures may be found in other countries, where State employment stands at similar percentages. Cuba’s atypical pattern is remarkably disproportionate, and unsustainable.

Some sociological features of self-employment deserve to be highlighted, as well: 29% are young, 34% are women, and up to 15% alsowork in the State sector, as there is a high level of multiple employment; up to 10% are “retirees” whose insufficient pensions force them to resume productive activities. At a territorial level, and closely related to the distribution of the population, six provinces account for 65% of private workers: Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba.

These general figures confirm that self-employment is a fundamental element of the economy, as it offers opportunities that are not found in the budgeted sector, and allows those who engage in it to break free from the chains of State dependency and to maintain, at least for the time being, a certain stability in the face of the State and its regulation of their activities.

Not surprisingly, self-employment is often found in food-related activities (restaurants, coffee shops, street vendors), 9%; the transport of cargo and passengers, 8%; the leasing of houses, rooms and spaces, 6%; telecommunications agents, 5%; and employees hired, in turn, by independent workers, 26%, mainly associated with food and transport activities.

Last December a series of regulations entered into force to regulate entrepreneurial activity in Cuba.

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