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The 171,000 new self-employment licenses issued by the Cuban government as of March 11 are benefiting tens of thousands of youth who would otherwise go without education or jobs, says an article in the Sunday edition of Communist Youth daily Juventud Rebelde.

Private business still  ”searches for its exact dimensions within the strategic design of the Cuban economy,” the article says, describing the explosion of street vending activities in a half dozen provincial cities and Havana. The reporter in charge of the section about Havana describes the massive presence of young people among the new street vendors.

“For these young people, some of them not attached to schools or jobs, the self-employment option can be socially very beneficial as a way of employment,” the article says, adding that they complain about missing support infrastructure, such as a constant stream of supplies at affordable prices. Some of the younger street vendors interviewed also complained that they were not allowed to practice the skills they acquired at university. None of the 178 activities permitted for private business belongs to a professional category.

The most popular activities selected by applicants for private business license are “food processing and sales,” “buying and selling of discs,” and “producer-seller of various articles for home use.”

President Raúl Castro told the expanded Council of Ministers this week that the plan to lay off 500,000 state workers has been delayed. Meanwhile, government plans to issue 250,000 licenses for private business are advancing faster. In the city of Cienfuegos, according to the article, 900 of some 2,500 people who joined the private sector had been previously laid off from state jobs.

Self-employment is exploding in the streets of Havana ...

... because it's a venue for young people ...

... who would otherwise be unemployed. Photos by Catherin Mesa Wong


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