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 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).
- 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.
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.
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.
- The oldest data I have is from 1970.
- 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)).