Cuba wants more babies, so it's giving parental leave to grandparents, too
BY NICK MIROFF
The Washington Post
Cuba is giving parental leave to the grandparents of newborns, the
country's latest attempt to reverse its sagging birthrate and defuse a
demographic time bomb.
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.
The island of 11 million has one of the lowest fertility rates in the
Western Hemisphere, with 1.7 births per woman. There are several factors
that explain this figure, but they mostly come down to a combination of
effective socialist medical care and a dysfunctional state-run economy.
Cuba's healthcare system makes contraceptives widely available, and
abortions are available on demand. At the same time, Cuban women are a
growing portion of the country's professional workforce, and many choose
to delay motherhood until their late 30s, often because they don't have
the financial means to care for children.
It's hardly the only demographic problem that Cuba faces: Some 60,000 to
80,000 Cubans emigrate each year, many of them young people looking for
better opportunities in the United States, Europe, and Latin America.
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.
The decrees also reduce day-care costs for parents with multiple
children and provide tax breaks for women who work in the country's
small but growing private sector.
Offering partial salary to Cuban parents on leave is not the kind of
burden for the government — which employs about 70 percent of the
workforce — that it would be in more prosperous nations.
The average official state salary hovers around $20 a month. Paying
parents and grandparents a fraction of that to care for children is
costly in a country where economic growth is stagnant, but nothing like
the expenditure it would be elsewhere.
The United Kingdom has adopted a leave policy for grandparents who still
work, and while a similar law has been proposed in Argentina, Cuba
appears to be the first Latin American country to offer the benefits to
Source: Cuba providing parental leave to grandparents | Miami Herald -