Prohibitions looming on self-employed childcare providers
We are all aware that the shortcomings and inadequacies of many of the goods and services offered by the Cuban government has resulted in a boom in self-employment, which is usually characterized by higher standards of quality.
If asked for some examples of the above, we could point to clothing vendors and transportation providers, among others. The former began offering clothes and shoes that were more popular than those sold at government stores, which handle State currency, to the authorities' great dismay. The latter, meanwhile, in addition to alleviating the urban transport crisis found in large cities, such as Havana, are the only alternative that many inland villagers have.
Now the case of child care professionals is coming to the fore. At the beginning of this 2015-2016 school year it was announced that 56 preschools remain closed - 45 of them in the capital. This situation means that 48,333 requests for slots at these facilities are pending approval, with all those mothers of young children potentially unable to join the work force. This figure is even more disquieting when one takes into account women's increasingly important role in the country's labor force.
Some of these mothers, and others who also need care for their children, have had no choice but to turn to freelance caregivers, even though they charge more than the State's centers do. Although there are some who perform this work illegally, it is estimated that most engaged in this activity are duly licensed self-employed workers. According to data supplied by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, in 2010 there were 521 caregivers in the country, while by the end of June of this year the figure had risen to 1,726.
This growth in the number of the self-employed who serve as caregivers (some of them men) has come about despite the additional requirements necessary for the issuance of the corresponding licenses.
Resolution 240 of the Ministry of Public Health, published in the Official Gazette 029 of 7 September, 2011 stipulates that to work as a childcare provider one must possess a medical license. It must also be demonstrated, by means of a medical certificate, that the caregiver and those with whom he or she lives enjoy good physical and mental health. The house where children are cared for, moreover, must have an adequate supply of potable water and functional plumbing installations. These homes are not permitted to house either pets or poultry, and they may care for up to a maximum of six children.
It should be noted that a significant number of caregivers formerly working at State kindergartens have decided to abandon their status as government employees and to work instead on a freelance basis as private caregivers. This is a situation which, of course, affects the capacity of the State's facilities to serve more children.
At the last meeting of the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, one of its standing committees examined the conditions under which private caregivers perform their work, and what to do to prevent the exodus of "educators" - as state care providers are known - towards the self-employed sector. There the Education Minister, Ena Elsa Velázquez, said that "we cannot see our facilities undermined because their trained staff ends up in the private sector, because it is less demanding and has fewer children. We cannot allow this, as the lack of personnel would compromise our centers, as is the case in various provinces." (Juventud Rebelde, October 4, 2015).
With regards to that expressed by the minister, it is worth noting that many private caregivers actually provide better service than that found at state kindergartens.
Few doubt that the government's consternation may lead to the issuance of a decree banning the issuance of licenses to private caregivers who abandon the State's facilities. One might recall how the authorities, at one stroke, did away with private purveyors of foreign-made clothing and shoes.