Cigar Aficionado

Cuba to Eliminate 500,000 Jobs, Shift Some to Private Sector

The Cuban government plans to eliminate 500,000 jobs by April 1 of next year, according to an announcement from the Cuba Workers' Central, the government-controlled confederation of labor unions.

The initiative is part of a broader economic strategy that also calls for the creation of 450,000 private sector jobs by the end of 2011, reported the Reuters news agency from Havana.

As it is now, 85 percent of Cuban workers, including cigar factory employees, are on the communist government payroll. Earlier this year, according to a Miami Herald report, Raul Castro acknowledged a surplus of one million state-paid employees.

Part of the plan to privatize, according to the Miami Herald report, is to turn small state enterprises like barber shops and repair stores into cooperatives run by their employees, as well as expand the number of the self-employed, such as plumbers and wedding photographers.

Though some experts doubt the goal of creating 450,000 private jobs by the end of 2011 can be met, others believe the demand among the Cuban population to privatize is great enough that the plan can succeed.

"There will be an adjustment period, for sure," said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert with the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations who also wrote a piece on the subject for Cigar Aficionado in 2009, at a news conference Monday. "But the private sector is going to absorb them very, very rapidly."