Cuba’s Population: What Happened in 2015

Erasmo Calzadilla

Population in Cuba by millions of inhabitants.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s official Health Statistics Report for 2015 has just seen the light of day. In this post, I will comment on a number of significant demographic data.

  • Cuba’s population (its number of inhabitants) has remained at a plateau since 2000. In 2015, it went up to 11,238,661, the highest figure ever reported. This does not however represent a peak but a small measure of residual progress in the midst of this drastic deceleration, exaggerated with the aid of a statistical trick we will comment on below. If this trend continues, a decline in population will begin in less than a decade. The item below will help us understand why.
  • The Global Fecundity Rate (GFR) is the average number of children a woman has. To achieve population replacement, the said figure must be higher than two. Since the crisis of the 1990s (and perhaps a little bit before), Cuba’s GFR has been below that critical value and hasn’t experienced many changes. In 2015, the number of children per mother was of 1.72.

    The birth and mortality rate.
  • The number of births remains relatively stable. Last year, it was measured at 125,064, slightly below the average for the previous five-year period.
  • The number of deaths and the yearly mortality rate are however growing in a linear manner, and have been doing so for several decades. In 2015, there were 99,694 deaths, the highest figure reported in the country since 1970 (1).

    Map of the birth rate in Cuba.
  • Curiously, birth rates in each of Cuba’s provinces were inversely proportional to their economic development. In Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos, they remained below average, while the more economically depressed east-laying provinces reported above-average rates.
  • The Health Statistics Report makes no mention of external migration patterns, but these can be gleaned indirectly (2). For 2013, the net positive migration (i.e. a value indicating that more people are immigrating than emigrating) was of some 12,000 people. In 2014 and 2015, this value again became negative, but the net value was much lower.
    The net balance of foreign migration.

    This result contrasts with the migratory hemorrhage of recent years. The explanation may be that, following the migratory reform of 2013, many of those who leave the country aren’t registered as emigrants until two years later. If this is true, the external migration value will again be negative and significantly high in next year’s report.

  • The combination of young people leaving the country and low birth rates makes Cuban society endure a population aging process. The percentage of people under 60 has been growing linearly for decades, as the percentage of people under 20 decreases proportionately.



The demographic trends that began in Cuba with the Special Period (or a bit before) continue to be stable or to worsen. The most worrying phenomenon is the low birth rate which, coupled with the emigration of young people, has led to population aging.

The evolution of the population by age group.

This phenomenon worries many and it will indeed be a huge challenge for the country. However, those of us who believe a major crisis will befall the whole of civilization see something positive in it, as slow degrowth is much less traumatic than sudden collapse.

On the other hand, the population of Cuba’s west-laying and central provinces is the one that reproduces the least and leaves the country the most, while that in the east is the most fertile and most prone to move within the country. If these trends continue, it is bound to have a growing impact on the nation’s cultural patterns. Could it be we are on our way to the Caribbeanization of Cuba?

In the next post, we will continue to analyze the Health Statistics Report and have a look at a chapter devoted to the evolution of health services in Cuba over time.


  1. The oldest data I have is from 1970.
  2. External migratory values were calculated using the following formula: Population for a specific year – (population the previous year + (births – deaths in the year in question)).

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

12 thoughts on “Cuba’s Population: What Happened in 2015

  • In Cuba, part of the reason for the oldest population in Latin America is the success of their Health Care system. Another piece is that many other countries have allowed themselves to be infiltrated by Western influences and have had endless bloody conflicts. Cuba has been a war free zone for about 50 years.

  • It’s very narrow-minded to think this has anything to do with Communism. Many countries are experiencing negative population growth. The United States would be experiencing negative population growth is it wasn’t for immigration. Italy is not a communist Nation, but it is experiencing a similar trend as is Japan.

  • Unless and until young Cuban people have good reasons to stay on the island and have babies, the Cuban nation will continue on this march toward demographic annihilation.

  • The reference to NAFTA raises memories of its negotiations back in 1991. Carla Hills was the negotiator for George Bush Senior. She made it a pre-negotiation condition that mobility of labour should be excluded and it was. One consequence for the US was that Mexicans moving north had to do so illegally rather than having green cards which would have allowed them to work there for specific periods and then return home – as they do from Canada. A second was that US companies moved south to take advantage of cheap labour transferring production from US employees to Mexica. Although it is correct that Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law, it was a Republican endeavor. That is being studiously ignored by the bellicose Donald Trump who regularly deprecates NAFTA. Nobody appears to challenge Trump’s statements either because they are ignorant of the reality of NAFTA and which government negotiated it, or because the US electoral system is designed for conditions over 200 years ago and consideration of changing the Constitution is regarded as a form of blasphemy. The reasons for Cubans currently endeavoring to flee their homeland are predominantly abhorrence of the Castro family communist rule. Communism cannot quell humanity’s desire for freedom and that is what is being sought. It is convenient for the regime and its admirers to say that the reasons are economic, but that is not the main cause. My views are based upon experiences within Cuba and knowing Cubans who having decided to take the enormous risks, have actually done so.

  • This year Canada will welcome 300,00 new Canadians from numerous countries.

  • This situation of population decrease was also happening in the USSR by the end of the Communist rule there. Communism is incompatible with the reproduction of the human race.

  • The basis for your stats. on net Mexican migration are questionable; there is much back-and-forth migration amongst Mexican migrants: they return to invest, or to build houses with, the money they’ve earned up north, then return to earn more, or to reconnect with their “anchor baby families;” since it is more difficult, and expensive, this is not so much the case with the Central Americans and those further south. In any event, it is now estimated that there are more than 11,000,000 undocumented migrants from the south now living and/or working in the U.S.A. One reason for this is the N.A.F.T.A., whose terms decimated Mexican agriculture by allowing a flood of cheap U.S. corn, soy beans, etc., thus forcing millions of Mexican farmers to migrate north in search of work.
    I suspect that the migration patterns of young Cubans to the U.S.A. is similar to that of Mexicans, Central Americans and those from the Caribbean who have also undertaken such journeys north, essentially for economic reasons.

  • Net Mexican migration is zero.

  • Same problem in Canada – US in better shape due to the influx of Mexicans – Si !!!

  • According to experts, by 2025, Cuba’s population is projected to drop to 10 million residents — down from 11 million — due to low fertility and birth rates, as well as high levels of emigrations.

    Cuba also will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. Today, 19 percent of the island’s population is older than 60, the experts said, and forecasts point to that number rising to 30 percent in less than a decade.

  • Many young Cubans are leaving to seek work out side of Cuba. A good service / entertainers on a cruise ship – wages / tips $ 80,000.00 /year. During the special period their was little food in Cuba and many young ladies aborted. Gordon Robinson – [email protected]

  • As Cuba ages, public health costs increase. Older people require more health care. Another population trend is that there are fewer Cuban workers in their productive years to support an increasingly older population.

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