The most important demographic challenges in Cuba today are associated with low fertility rates and accelerated population aging.
This came from participants in a panel to review the implementation of the Plan of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo (Egypt) in 1994.
«The fact that the local fertility rate has for decades been lower than the replacement index poses a serious challenge that will need to be faced in the near future,» said Juan C. Alfonso, director of the National Office of Statistics and Information’s Population and Development Study Center (CEPDE).
«Last year, women aged 15 to 49 had 1.7 children on average. This situation may have resulted from enhanced women’s access to the labor market, education and health services, and the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights,» stressed Mayda Álvarez, director of the Women’s Study Center (CEM).
«But it may also have resulted from the housing deficit, inadequate household support services, the feminization of emigration, and the deeply rooted ideal of small-sized families,» she added.
Alfonso indicated that, despite sustained economic decline, social indicators have got increasingly better on the island.
«Life expectancy stands at 78 years, and a well-defined gender policy and mother-and-child care program have been successfully implemented,» he recalled.
The number of people over 60 has considerably grown: seven percent (of the population) in 1950, 12 percent in 1990, 15 percent in 2004, and 18 percent in 2013.
«There is an imperative need to provide them with quality care,» said Antonio Aja, director of the University of Havana’s Population Study Center (CEDEM).
Marcela Suazo, regional director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), highlighted the fact that Cuba had adopted advanced social programs over 50 years ago and has been playing a leading role along these lines ever since.
The panel was also attended by Natividad Guerrero, a specialist working with the National Sex Education Center (CENESEX); Roberto Álvarez, director of the Ministry of Public Health’s Mother-and-Child Care Program; and William Díaz, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment.
«Most of the Cairo goals have been met here,» Díaz emphasized.
Suazo indicated that the most important challenge in the region is to move towards equality while promoting social investment.
A global population and development agenda
The Cairo Conference was preceded by World Population Conferences in Bucharest (1974) and Mexico City (1984).
The Cairo Plan of Action reaffirmed the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights, and considered the individual as the central subject and beneficiary of development.
Adopted by 179 countries, it set forth specific objectives and measures in connection with population variables such as fertility, mortality, migration and aging.
It also addressed education, gender equality, women’s empowerment, reproductive and sexual rights, etc.