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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources

Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 February 2017 — Concerned about
low birthrates, this month the Government has launched a campaign
focused on fertility and a package of measures to stimulate births of
two or more children per woman.

Since 1978 fertility rates have declined throughout the Island, dropping
below population replacement levels. By 2050, the country will rank 9th
in the world for elderly population. The aging demographics will
exacerbate the lack of economically active people.

The new regulations to stimulate birth, made widely known by the paper
Gaceta Oficial (Offical Gazzette), are composed of two decrees and four
resolutions. These measures include the paid participation of family
members in the childrearing process.

"Now my mother will be able to stay home with my daughter while I go to
work," says Sahily Cuevas, mother of a four-month-old baby and an
employee of a Cooperative of Credits and Services in the municipality of
Güira, Artemisa.

The grandmother, employed in the State Gastronomic Network, will receive
60% of her salary as a social benefit, a benefit that up until February
was only available to the father of the child. It is true, however, that
this payment is equivalent to $11, the price of three packs of
disposable diapers.

The majority of women surveyed point to lack of resources as the main
cause for postponement or interruption of a pregnancy. In the period
between 2006-2013, birth rates rose from 1.39 children per woman to
1.71, but that figure should reach a minimum of 2.1 to get out of the
red zone.

"I would not dare have a second child," exclaims Tahimí, 27, resident of
Aguada de Pasajeros. "The list of necessities to have a baby is so long
that the extra money will be like a drop in the ocean, it will serve
very little use."

The women believes that the 50% discount on subsidized childcare rates
for parents of two or more children can help "the poorest families,"
especially in rural areas. With the third child the family will become
exempt from payment, a benefit extending to couples that have multiple
deliveries at once.

Returning to work after giving birth has also received new stimuli.
Mothers who return to work after 18 weeks of maternity leave will
receive, in addition to 100% of their salary, an extra provision of 60%
of their pay, from three months to one year after giving birth.

The private sector, with more than half a million employees in the
country, has also received a reduction in monthly taxes for
self-employed workers with two or more children under 17 years old. But
the labor demands in private businesses leave little room for women to
take a more extended family leave.

"I would not leave from here because they would replace me and this is
my family's livelihood," comments an employee of La Mimosa, a restaurant
in Chinatown in Havana. "There is a lot of competition and getting
pregnant is the same as being left out," adds the employee, who chose to
remain anonymous.

Maipú, 21, has had four abortions. The first two with the technique of
menstrual regulation performed on an outpatient basis that does not
require anesthesia. For the last two she entered an operating room where
they used the technique of scraping, known as curettage. The young woman
refuses to have children at the moment.

"I live with my parents and my grandparents, as well as my two
brothers," she says to 14ymedio. Housing problems are the main cause for
postponing motherhood, but she also has her eyes set on emigrating.

In recent years, without publicly announcing it, the Ministry of Public
Health has restricted abortions. "Now the requirements to receive an
abortion are stricter," says a nurse of the Obstetrical Gynecological
Hospital, Ramón González Coro. The employee believes that "it is
difficult to complete all the paperwork in time for a menstrual
regulation technique or an abortion."

However, the informal market has also flourished in that field. Maipú
paid 50 CUC for her last abortion. "I did not have much time because I
was already at 12 weeks," she recounts. She spent the equivalent of a
doctor's monthly salary. There was no record of her procedure on her
medical record.

The director of the Center of Population and Development Studies, Juan
Carlos Alfonso, has tempered the weight of the economic crisis and
immigration in the rejection of pregnancies maintained by Cuban women.
For the specialist, "social processes like female emancipation "also
influence in the decision to push back maternity.

A 2009 fertility survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (ONEI)
found that 21% of women aged 15-54 had experienced at least one
pregnancy that ended in intentional abortions. Eighty percent of the
population reported having used contraception.

"Obtaining one visa is not the same as obtaining two," affirms Maipú in
a pragmatic tone. However, she acknowledges that she has always wanted
to "be a mother and have many children running around the house."

Translated by Chavely Garcia.

Source: Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources / 14ymedio, Marcelo
Hernandez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/birthrate-is-not-just-a-matter-of-resources-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/
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