HAVANA TIMES – A total of 429,458 Cubans are registered as self-employed in the 181 activities authorized by the government of Raul Castro since late 2010, according to official statistics.
According to data released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the figure of persons working in the private sector in Cuba was issued at the end of May, which marks an increase of more than 30,000 over last year.
The report notes that self-employment has increased most in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, which together account for 64 percent of the registered business and new land owners and their laborers.
The largest single group falls in the category of workers hired as labor by private business owners, accounting for 18 percent of all private employment. A total of 83 of the permitted work activities permit the hiring of waged labor.
Slow growth in private sector
In second place are licenses for the preparation and sale of food products, followed by transporters of cargo and passengers; rental housing; street vendors of agricultural products, and producers and sellers of household items.
Nearly 70 percent of the self-employed had no previous employment relationship, and 14 percent were retired, which are not very encouraging indicators for the structural changes and layoffs of government employees projected by Raul Castro.
The government wants to eliminate a million and a half state jobs within five years, assuming the gradual transition to private work forms for those laid off. After almost three years, self-employment covers only a third of the expectations created by the so-called “labor rearrangement”.
The government has sought to stimulate private activity with leasing local barber shops and restaurants, the granting of loans for investment and the provision of state land in usufruct to some 176,000 Cubans.
Illegals under scrutiny
The theme of self-employment and “illegal variants” has become obligatory point in the preparatory meetings of the upcoming Twentieth Congress of the Cuban Labor Federation (CTC) taking place throughout the country.
In a union conference held in Santiago de Cuba last week, representatives of a committee of light food processors-sellers denounced the proliferation of unauthorized vendors, which represent unfair competition for those registered.
“It is easier to be illegal, they pay a fine of 250 pesos if they get caught, while we pay a patent for almost 500 pesos,” said Herminia Casas of Santiago de Cuba.
At the union meeting, Salvador Valdes Mesa, vice president of the State Council, said there is “no reason” for anybody to exercise private activity illegally.