Cuba’s population rose in 2011 — by only 7,084 inhabitants
In a departure from recent trends, Cuba’s population grew — albeit modestly — in 2011. As of Dec. 31, the island had exactly 11,247,925 inhabitants, according to Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONE)..
That’s up very slightly from the 11,240,841 estimated on Dec. 31, 2010.
Cuba now has more inhabitants than at any time in history, even more than the previous record of 11,243,836 in 2005. Yet the gain of 7,084 residents in the course of a year is still statistically insignificant, accounting for a net increase of only 0.06%. In practical terms, this means Cuba’s population is still stagnating.
Scholars frequently argue that the island has reached the final phase of demographic transition, in which the birth rate drops sharply in a well-educated population where working women comprise a significant share of the labor force, and the death rate rises slightly as a result of an older population.
This is already taking place in Japan, South Korea, France and all of Cuba’s former Soviet-bloc allies including Russia..
Yet this interpretation discounts Cuba’s persistent economic crisis which began after 1990, as can be seen in the chart on population growth rate since 1985 (see page 7).
From a growth rate of 11 per 1,000 in the late 1980s, the ratio suddenly dropped to 3 per 1,000 between 1994 and 2003 — and down again to 0.2 per 1,000 in the years after.
Even scholars seem to have been taken by surprise by this outcome.
In 2005, when stagnation was already a fact, demographers predicted that by 2010, Cuba’s population would hit 11.34 million, instead of the 11.24 million actually reached.
Eighteen years earlier, in 1987, the government predicted Cuba would have 11.84 million people by 2000, when in fact it was only 11.14 million, a difference of 700,000.
Adjustments in demographic projections are common since growth depends on an array of circumstances that are often intertwined and unpredictable.
These include waves of immigration, economic ups-and-downs and radical political shifts — but facts are facts. Maybe President Raúl Castro’s call for a frank discussion of current events in Cuba allowed specialists to openly talk about Cuba’s demographic challenges and what can be done about them.
In any case, a stagnant, aging and even shrinking population must trigger alarms in a country whose economy and productivity are so weak that they fail even to produce enough food for itself. Meanwhile, Cuba’s strongholds of relative wealth and prosperity are confined to a handful of isolated enclaves.
A glance at the population growth map over the past five years shows that in 111 of Cuba’s municipios — most of them rural — there has been virtually no population growth.
In fact, inhabitants there are growing older as productivity lags. In another 26 municipios (marked in red), the population is decreasing, perhaps the result of people fleeing their homes in search of better opportunities.
Some extreme drops have occurred in traditional sugar zones like Manatí where large mills have been shut down recently, as well as the municipios around Havana, which accounts for about 17,000 — or half — of all Cubans fleeing the island each year.
On the other hand, population gains can be found in 31 municipalities, or 18.4% of all Cuba’s smallest administrative territories. These are concentrated close to the capital, along the Matanzas-Varadero tourism and oil corridor, near Moa’s nickel zone and around some provincial capitals.
Shrinking birth rates and continuing emigration are leading to fewer young people still in Cuba. This trend will continue in the foreseeable future unless a major political and economic turnaround stops the current exodus, brings back a sizeable number of Cuban exiles and unleashes the island’s depressed birth rate.
The children born to Cuba’s baby-boomers of the 1960s and early ‘70s now form a group of some 1.5 million in the most active period of their reproductive lives.
They’re likely to sustain a stable population growth in the future, but as they get older, newer generations will have fewer sons and daughters — and Cuba’s overall population will shrink further.
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