For every statistically unemployed inhabitant of this eastern Cuban province, five seem not to be interested in any of the job offers in the state sector or in the private segment of the local economy.
Las Tunas, Cuba.- But before giving them any pejorative adjectives, it is worth asking the reasons for what in technical terms is called labor inactivity.
According to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI in Spanish), Las Tunas is within what the International Labor Organization (ILO) describes as full employment because its unemployment rate is less than three percent of its economically active population. That means that between 2013 and 2018 on average here, 2,389 people were unemployed, but kept looking for work.
However, in the same period, an average of 14,323 inhabitants of this region remained inactive, which means that they simply declared not wishing to work or reported not having an occupation as a means of living. The latter figure does not include students, or those who have devoted themselves to household chores or retirees.
"It's not that there are no offers, but the quality of those offers," explains Zamira Marín Triana, vice-president of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS in Spanish). It happens that we have one of the highest figures in the country, according to MTSS records. Having too many people with the age to work or study and not wanting to do either is a serious problem in provinces like Las Tunas. This is a territory with high percentages of the population in working age, and low percentages of those in post-working age, 62 and over for men and 57 and over for women.
Marín Triana reiterates that the objective of this ministerial portfolio is, in the first place, to know how many citizens are really inactive, since she admits that there is still no clarity so as to know what the economic livelihood of many of them is. Some of them could be in a scenario where remittances converge with the illegal exercise of an economic practice. "Social workers have a key role in this, because that worker must attend to some 600 family nuclei, know them and determine the causes of why those people are inactive. To know their school grade, in short, to know", she says.
On the other hand, she insists that "the directors of Labor (of the municipalities) are the ones obliged to advise the municipal governments on this issue so that they are able to identify that inactive population and know how to generate potentially attractive jobs.
Recently, says Roberto Cruz Tamayo, deputy director of Self-Employment, at the Provincial Labor Office, they have already met with all the municipal directors.
First, to bring them up to date with the statistics on the subject. But the specialists here are concerned that some self-employed activities will continue in no man's land if they are legalized and also what will happen to many technicians and skilled workers who have just graduated in the midst of a frozen state workforce. "Maybe we are being unfair in the data," says Cruz Tamayo.
Employment is generated through three channels: investment, local development projects and the recovery of installed capacities in industries and agriculture, says Vice Minister Zamira. For this reason, she believes that labor directors must participate in defining strategies for progress in each of their territories and be attentive so that such ideas generate jobs that are attractive to the inactive population. "That's development," she sums up. However, she expresses his disagreement, because often in the shaping of these initiatives the workforce is not mentioned as a relevant indicator.
Oleidys Saucedo Licea, director of Labor in Las Tunas, admits that the issue has imposed dynamics on them that they were not used to. "We can handle it better," she says. Likewise, she agrees that it is not an issue to be solved only by the MTSS, but it requires a coordinated work, also with the academy.
The directive emphasizes that this body has not been sitting on its hands. Thus they are already involved, at least at the provincial level, in the establishment of local development projects. However, its own data warns that the number of potential new jobs on behalf of already initiated local development projects hardly "scratches" the mass of inactive people.
Yoenia Barbán Sarduy, First Vice-Chancellor of the University of Las Tunas, reports that after the last Government visit they took note of the urgency of carrying out employment studies, with emphasis on the inactive. "The first step, she says, would be to establish the indicators that would allow us to measure it more accurately," she says.
The vice-rector assures that they have already identified from which majors could be advanced in these surveys. Industrial Engineering, Social Communication and the recently renowned discipline of Socio-Cultural Management would be some of the most important to carry out studies of family, population, and why not, employment in Las Tunas, she says. "It is a potential that, together with the Directorate of Labor, we will prioritize," she says.
Along with demographic ageing, increasingly slower population growth is a serious threat to the availability of labor, insists sociologist José Luis Martín Romero. The expert from the Center for Demographic Studies (CEDEM in Spanish) illustrates that the Cuban population of working age has certainly had a paid job for more than five decades. But, he adds, right now the low purchasing power of nominal wages in the state sector works against the increase in the labor force; and that the non-state sector (cooperative and private), even the legalized one, while providing the same guarantees as its counterpart in the state, comes with the risk of dismissal without compensation and over-exploitation.
In addition to this situation, other studies indicate that the gender, level of education, region of residence, number and age of the people with whom Cubans live would also be factors that would distance them from the desire to seek employment. Similar effects would be felt if they care disabled people, the elderly or if they receive remittances.
Our Government is clearly concerned about the situation of those who do not wish to work or study when they are old enough to do so. To face it, suggest the analysts of the subject, requires not to leave aside the interactions between personal and family life, more in the case of women. They believe that the urgent link between different forms of ownership should be considered in the creation of new and diverse jobs, without losing sight of the purchasing power of wages.
Only in this way, they conclude, will those who, regardless of their qualifications, are not interested in becoming unemployed, enter the domestic labor market.