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Cuba sacks a million public sector workers

In the throes of Cuba's economic "reorganisation", young people are walking a tightrope towards an uncertain employment future. They are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs that meet both their professional aspirations and their salary expectations.

world Updated: Apr 21, 2011 01:54 IST

In the throes of Cuba's economic "reorganisation", young people are walking a tightrope towards an uncertain employment future. They are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs that meet both their professional aspirations and their salary expectations.

The government of President Raúl Castro launched economic reforms last year that include massive lay-offs of public employees, potentially affecting 1 million people by the end of 2011. "Young people are among the most vulnerable when it comes to getting a new job," Yonnier Angulo, 25, a university professor, told IPS.

Expanded opportunities for self-employment are among the options proposed by the government in response to the high demand for jobs. Large numbers of workers are needed in agriculture and construction, but the majority of jobseekers find these sectors unattractive.

According to the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate in Cuba in 2009 was only 2% for women and 1.5% for men, but this will be radically changed by the decline in public sector employment.

"The impact of the labour adjustment measures on youth must be monitored," sociologist María Isabel Domínguez told IPS. Those who are clearly competent at their jobs will be kept on, but young people's competence is often hard to assess. On the one hand, they tend to be better qualified, but on the other they lack work experience, she said. The challenge to young people in Cuba is mirrored in many parts of the world. Last year, about 6.7% of the 104 million young people of working age in Latin America and the Caribbean were unemployed, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

For some time, young people in Cuba have created their own employment niches outside the sphere of the state.

Meanwhile, Natividad Guerrero, head of the Centre for Youth Studies (CESJ), pointed out that young people "have a very selective attitude towards employment". She said many young people who are laid off by the state prefer to look for a new job in emerging areas of the economy, like foreign companies.

They are not interested in the majority of available jobs, which nowadays are mostly in unpopular areas like construction, agriculture, or maintenance and public works, Guerrero said.