Cuban Workers Lack Motivation

By Benjamin Noria

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Career motivation is the hope that workers get from their company or institution’s development in their field and their economic and commercial success. This in turn should give them enough pay to cover their basic needs, unlock their potential and make their dreams come true.

However, many workers in Cuban companies and state institutions spend all of their time on the phone talking about their private affairs. They’re already creeping out of their offices at 12 noon anyway. When a person goes to a state-owned cafe, they have to wait for the waiter / waitress to stop talking to a friend, for example, before they are served.

The main reason for this is that a Cuban worker’s salary isn’t enough for them to cover their basic needs. It isn’t enough for them to buy clothes, shoes, pay for a cellphone, get food, an air-conditioning unit or furniture, etc., and people just don’t feel motivated to produce under these circumstances.

According to Karl Marx, wages need to be enough to recover a worker’s energy and for them to be able to produce and reproduce their work.

A second reason is that a worker doesn’t move up the professional ladder based on their intelligence and their own merits. The Communist government doesn’t like intelligent people, but obedient people instead, because intelligent people can oppose them.

The explanation for this phenomenon lies in the effects of totalitarianism. A centrally planned economy, a one-party state, its dogmatic/orthodox ideology and its firm control of mass media, the army and police, are obstacles for the production of goods and surplus value.

Plus, let’s keep in mind that Rule of Law does not exist in Cuba, which makes it impossible for mechanisms to exist for citizens to demand and exercize their basic and human rights.

While it’s true that no system in the world is perfect, capitalism has been able to satisfy humans’ material, physical and spiritual needs a lot more accurately, and it is also the fastest system to find solutions when problems arise such as water, food and vaccine shortages. Everything comes from freedom: the freedom of creation, civil and political freedoms, a free market economy.

What’s more, the reality is that the same Cubans who emigrate to capitalist countries, are then able to buy cars, pay rent, their water and electricity bills, and they can also send remittances to the friends and family they left behind in Cuba, with the wages they earn.

The Castro regime is a flawed system, which has been in force for over 60 years, without producing almost anything and is still using the same technology the country used at the beginning of the Revolution. It’s their fault that Cuba hasn’t been able to be a reference of anything in the world except for cigars and rum. Cuban workers become stupefied in workplaces and their work becomes a lot more tedious with increased bureaucracy, as the government adds double the amount of paperwork for the same-old processes and services.  

The Cuban government deplores consumerism. According to them, having air-conditioning at home is a consumer trend, but their dogmatic ideology stops them from realizing that having air-conditioning isn’t a luxury. In a tropical country like Cuba, with excruciating heat, air-conditioning helps people to sleep and rest better and, as a result, they’ll be able to do more at work.

The same goes for being able to drink a glass of milk and a nice slice of bread with bacon and 100% pure coffee in the morning before going to work, which is something Cubans can’t even dream about.

Last but not least, work efficiency is to produce and bring in revenue from this production, but without a living wage that can give workers wellbeing, there won’t be any kind of useful efficiency in this country.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

5 thoughts on “Cuban Workers Lack Motivation

  • It could simply be that Cuba’s money is worthless –
    Just like a hundred other 3rd world countries.

    A lot of world inequities stem from that.

  • “Cuban Workers Lack Motivation”. Someone who reads that title and then passes it by without actually reading the entire article will have an extremely negative general opinion of Cuban workers. Reader alert: Not all Cuban workers lack motivation.

    Benjamin is making a case that Cuban workers who work primarily for the state communist government lack motivation and do not give two hoots about their work whether it is well done or not. Government workers as Benjamin writes are poorly paid, poorly trained and are simply cogs in the totalitarian machine. I am sure most readers are well aware of the slogan: Cuban workers pretend to work while the Cuban government pretends to pay them. Very apt for government workers but not for all Cuban workers.

    Benjamin’s title does an extreme disservice to many other Cuban workers. I am referring to those Cuban workers, and nowadays there are more and more like them, who are entrepreneurs, who work for themselves, who are trying under extremely difficult economic circumstances to make a living.

    I am referring to carpenters, masons, brick layers, welders, any skilled craftsperson . . . all these workers who go out and toil day in and day out under some of the most inhospitable climate working from sun up to sun down for relatively little pay. They do not lack motivation – far from it. These motivated workers, whom Benjamin explains, have very little to eat in the mornings, mount their rickety riding bicycles and head off to their worksite.

    Some have to pedal for hours simply to get to their place of self-employment – rain or shine. Or, if they are lucky they can wait for hours on the side of the road waiting for a passing transport truck which will stop and take on yet more passengers/workers heading into the nearest town.

    Benjamin refers to capitalism as perhaps better at finding solutions when problems arise. Living in Canada, I do not agree entirely with that sentiment. “Capitalism has been able to satisfy humans’ material, physical and spiritual needs a lot more accurately, and it is also the fastest system to find solutions when problems arise such as . . . vaccine shortages.”

    Right from the beginning of the pandemic, Canada has had to go shopping (begging?) on the open market in order to purchase sufficient vaccines for Canadians. Canada historically did have vaccine making facilities but under a Conservative government – frivolous spending needs to be erased was their mantra – eliminated the vaccine producing facilities. This was a cost cutting measure? Cuba, the communist country, has put its medical motivated professionals to work at finding a made at home vaccine. Cuba, to their credit, has not had to do what capitalist Canada had to do and ask other countries to supply them with vaccines; in fact, time will tell, Cuba may be supplying other countries with a worthwhile made at home vaccine.

    Capitalism, and Canada falls under that rubric, is not necessarily a panacea for problem solutions as this pandemic has demonstrated. There will be a sober reckoning in Canada as to how this pandemic was (mis) handled and there will be more attention spent on not jettisoning potential health facilities which may appear as frivolous and expensive.

    Benjamin writes “. . . work efficiency is to produce and bring in revenue from this production, but without a living wage that can give workers wellbeing, there won’t be any kind of useful efficiency in this country.” I suppose for government workers this is true; however, for that entrepreneur, that self employed skilled tradesperson who goes out every day to labor, his/her whole motivation is to be as efficient as possible, and as productive as possible, not for the Cuban government’s sake, but for their own dignity and self respect as Cuban workers.

  • This is so well written and true .50 cents a day sure woudnt motivate me to work especially in the deplorable state Cuba is in .Well done !

  • As long as the Government pretends they are paying me a good wage, I will keep pretending that I am doing a good Job.

  • Trying times indeed. While much can be criticized in Cuba, do not idealize the capitalist option. Democracy in the US is unravelling with emerging hints of despotism and right wing extremism, a lack of societal support for medical care etc. But looking at the history of Russia and how the idealism of socialism was sacrificed for the retention of power is not encouraging either. ( in 1920 when the Russian New Economic Plan allowed peasants to sell surpluses and this was challenged, Lenin said “Let the peasants have their little bi of capatlism as long as we retain power.” Let’s hope that this is not the attitude of Cuba’s leadership. Success for Cuba will depend on finding a middle road neither purely capitalist nor socialist; neither US nor Russian- but what is right for Cuba. Cuba’s societal objectives of equality, universal access to health care and education are exemplary – now governance and economic theory needs improvement. But the solution must be Cuban.

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