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Economy, Labor

Trabajadores, guard duty, labor practices, different occupations, agricultural fields

Before the 1989 economic crisis, 4,620,800 of a total population of about 10,000,000 were economically active. Of these, 3,578,800 were employed in the state sector. Thirty percent of state employees worked in services and government, 22 percent were in industry, 20 percent were in agriculture, 11 percent were in commerce, 10 percent in construction, and 7 percent were in transportation and communication.

No official figures are available that show how the economic crisis has affected labor, but unemployment is estimated at about 25 percent. This compares with no unemployment between 1965 and 1980, an 18 percent unemployment rate in 1952, and over 30 percent unemployment in 1933. In important economic sectors, such as tourism, energy, and the sugar and coffee industries, workers’ salaries have improved.

However, economic figures do not capture the full picture of labor activity in Cuba. Many Cubans have chosen to leave their jobs in order to freelance in independent businesses. Their economic activities are not recorded in official labor census data, but they may have income in dollars as freelance entrepreneurs.

In addition, the government does not count the amount of work done by forced “voluntary” labor. The government requires every adult capable of work to volunteer for 150 hours per year. Their duties take them into entirely different occupations from their own, and they usually work in construction, agricultural fields, urban sanitation, and fumigation. The government tracks attendance, and delinquent citizens can be fined or made to work extended hours. Additionally, people are required to do guard duty at their work places and in neighborhoods, and some belong to the militia.

Workers in the state sector represent themselves through the Cuban Confederation of Workers (Confederacion de Trabajadores de Cuba, Spanish acronym CTC), which has minimal power to influence labor practices and salary levels. Within work establishments, local boards of the CTC arbitrate labor disputes. Workers participate in these discussions and decisions.

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