This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cuba Offers Grandparental Leave to Boost Birth Rate

Thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing me to a story by Nick Miroff of the Washington Post detailing a new policy from the Cuban government that gives working grandparents some paid leave to take care of their grandchildren. The goal, of course, is to help raise the island's low birth rate.
The island already has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the Americas, allowing mothers and fathers to take more than a year off from work at partial pay. The new decree extends those benefits to maternal and paternal grandparents. But so far, such attempts haven’t brought any sort of Cuban baby boom.
And they aren't likely to since Miroff points out that the average state salary in Cuba is only $20/month. That, combined with ready access to contraception and abortion and a high labor force participation rate among women, has kept the birth rate low. People really can't afford to have kids. In some countries, they wind up having them anyway because of the lack of reproductive health care (nearby Haiti is a prime example, as I've mentioned before), but at least that isn't an issue in Cuba.

I couldn't help but be pleased that Miroff linked back to a Washington Post Op-Ed that my son, Greg, and I published a couple of years ago, detailing the variety of demographic issues facing Cuba--and why engagement with the U.S. was thus a necessary lifeline. Here is how he summarized our detailing of the issues:
The Cubans who stay behind are going gray. Nearly one-fifth of the island’s population is 60 or older, and they depend on a shrinking pool of Cuban workers to keep the state-run economy afloat. Cuba's life expectancy is 78, on par with the United States, so there's a larger and larger pool of dependents. 
According to the Communist Party newspaper Granma, the decision to extend parental leave to grandparents was necessary “to deal with the high degree of aging among the population, and to encourage fertility in the short term.” 
“The challenge of raising the birthrate in Cuba is a challenge that cannot be put off,” Granma said.
In the U.S. we need to put off any notion of undoing the reengagement with Cuba put into place by the Obama administration. It seems that President Trump has now made nice with Senator Marco Rubio, who despite being a young person has an out-dated view of what U.S.-Cuba relations should look like. 

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