A little more than two months have passed since the entry into force in Cuba of Decree-Laws 339 and 340, on Female Workers' Maternity and the Modification of Special Social Security Regimes with regard to maternity protection, respectively.
Both are part of a series of provisions for the implementation of Guideline no.144 of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, aimed at responding to the demographic dynamics of the island and the phenomenon of population aging.
“Pursuant to this guideline a set of measures has been approved, and these are the first, based on the economic reality of the country today. To the extent that the situation permits, others will be implemented,” stated Haydee Franco Leal, director of Policies and Projections at the National Institute of Social Security, attached to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
What were the grounds for the enactment of these two decrees?
These decrees were issued to comply with the policy approved by the Council of Ministers, aimed at addressing the high level of population aging, and form part of a comprehensive policy for the process of perfecting and updating our economic model.
There are three essential objectives to this policy: to encourage fertility in order to move toward population replacement in the medium term. That is, to encourage Cuban women to have at least two children.
Secondly, to meet the needs of the growing population 60 years of age and older, with the adoption of a group of measures that permit the active participation of this demographic in the economic, political and social life of the nation.
The third purpose is to stimulate majority employment of all those able to work. With these three objectives, these decree-laws were enacted to encourage a higher fertility rate among women, as well as their incorporation and reincorporation into the workforce, and foster greater integration of the family in the care of minors.
When did these provisions come into effect?
Decree-Law 339, approved by the National Assembly on December 8, 2016, entered into force on February 10 of this year, together with No. 340. Both have the same date of approval and enactment.
No. 339 - on ‘Female Workers' Maternity’ - is aimed at protecting female state sector workers. I would say more than women themselves, it protects Cuban families working in the state sector, given the scope of the legislation.
Among its articles is a series of rights that extend those already recognized in previous legislation, while creating new ones. The most relevant are four measures of a significant impact, which we consider to be the most influential on a woman’s decision to have more children.
The decree-law established that the monthly monetary maternity benefit (economic and social security benefit) can not be lower than the minimum wage in force in the country.
The second measure is for women workers with more than one job. Women in this situation are entitled to receive maternity benefits corresponding to each of their workplaces, in accordance with the time they have worked and provided they meet the relevant legislative requirements.
The requirements concern the right to the monetary benefit, that is to say the payment linked to maternal leave, rather than the leave itself. This undoubtedly results in a greater economic income for working mothers.
Thirdly, we have women workers hired for a fixed term in contracts of more than one year. Even if the contract has been terminated, if a woman has reached the 34th week of pregnancy within a period not exceeding three months after the conclusion of this contract, she will be entitled to the paid maternity benefit for the pre and postnatal leave period.
The fourth measure is to extend to working maternal or paternal grandparents the right to the social security benefit that until now only corresponded to the mother and father. When these figures - including the father who was already included in the previous legislation - decide to take care of the child after the postnatal leave period and up until the first year of life, they will be entitled to a social benefit equivalent to 60% of their average monthly salary, calculated according to the immediate 12 months prior to the birth of the child. This allows the mother to return to work.
There is another very important aspect. Those mothers who return to work during this social benefit period (after their postnatal leave and before their child’s first birthday) have the right to simultaneity receive their salary and the social benefit, provided that this benefit is not being claimed by the relative caring for the child.
What are the key aspects of Decree-Law 340 on the Modification of Special Social Security Regimes?
This introduced changes in the requirements, in order that women workers registered for these special schemes are entitled to the monetary benefit.
The decree-law establishes that the corresponding contribution period includes that period in which the worker was exempted from contributing under the law, which protects her, due to sickness or on the maternity leave of a previous pregnancy.
Today, given the introduction of this contribution, the contribution period will include that in which she is exempt, to ensure that, in any case, she generates the right to the monetary maternity benefit.
I think it is important to note that the Social Security benefits differ under each of the regimes - the general regime that includes women workers in the non-state sector and the special regimes - because these benefits are adjusted according to the conditions in which each of these workers carry out their activities.
Based on the principle of equality, the same rights are protected, but adjusted to the particular conditions of the work carried out by each woman.
In economic terms, how much does this policy represent?
The Cuban state allocates substantial resources to Social Security. The approved budget for 2017 amounted to 6 billion pesos.
Today the Cuban population aged 60 and over represents 19.6% of the population. The forecast for the year 2030 is 30.3% of the population. The resources required to sustain this system will be substantial, because of the number of pensions that will be owing to those reaching this age by that time, in addition to health costs.
It is important that the measures adopted be directed toward two fundamental aspects: to stimulate fertility in women, to guarantee the replacement rate, that is, to increase the number of people of working age, as the guarantee of the human resources needed to meet the needs of society, following their incorporation in to the workplace as a productive force.
The second aspect is to stimulate the majority employment of all those persons able to work, as this constitutes the cornerstone of Social Security. This guarantees the sustainability of our Social Security system, which is the same as saying our socialist social system.
Maternity benefits equal to the minimum wage
In Cuba, monetary maternity benefit is granted to women workers over a period of 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Once a woman reaches the 34th week of pregnancy, or the 32nd week if carrying multiple children, she is entitled to paid maternity leave for the six weeks prior to giving birth and 12 weeks afterwards.
What is known as the social benefit is granted once the paid leave period ends, up until the child reaches their first birthday. This benefit is optional, the mother can decide whether to receive this benefit herself, or for it to correspond to another working family member who cares for the child.
Rights for the whole family
Other rights are extended in the new legislation, such as unpaid leave. Previously these were exclusive to the mother or the father. This leave period can now be taken by grandparents, if the parents so decide.
The law grants a further period of three months of unpaid leave, once the child is a year old, if the main carer is unable to immediately return to work. Following the adoption of the new legislation, during this period, the mother or father can return to work if they wish and delegate the child’s care to the grandparents, in which case they will be entitled to this unpaid leave period.
Special regimes are designed for self-employed women workers, artists, creators, and usufructuaries of agricultural land. The law previously required a Social Security contribution period of 12 months immediately prior to reaching the 34th week of pregnancy, in order to earn the right to monetary maternity benefit.
With the new provisions, women workers under special regimes will in all cases generate the right to this benefit.