Ageing, migration and old age care on Cuba

The project is located at the intersection of population ageing, migration and care in old age. From a transnational family perspective, it explores how care of older people is organized in contexts of migration and demographic change. While this topic has received increasing scholarly attention in recent years, Cuba has thus far been a blind spot in this field of research.

Cuba is a particularly interesting case to study, as it combines substantial demographic change with high emigration of younger people. Both processes contributed to Cuba turning into one of the countries with the highest ratio of older people in Latin America and the Caribbean within a relatively short period of time. As a consequence, care for an increasing number of older people has become a major social and political challenge to the country.

On Cuba, in principle it is the responsibility of the state to create an infrastructure of old age care. To date, such a public old age care infrastructure is largely missing. Due to socialist principles, a market-oriented infrastructure for old age care is also non-existent. Old age care is thus largely the responsibility of the family and especially the younger generation. However, due to the far-reaching emigration of the younger generation, the family on side as an instance of care and support for older people is becoming fragile.

Against this background, this study addresses the question how care is provided for older Cubans whose children completely or partly live abroad. It examines, which actors are involved in the organization and provision of care in old age and asks for the implications these arrangements have for the different actors, including the older people themselves.

Methodologically, the project is based on principle "follow the field", which was coined in the context of multi-sided ethnography (Marcus). We will start with narrative-guided semi-structured interviews of Cubans who live abroad and whose parents or grandparents live on Cuba, through which further actors involved in care will be identified and subsequently interviewed. This, in turn, might lead us to further actors involved.

By focusing on Cuba, the project contributes to extending transnational family and old age care research to previously neglected societies. The specific context of Cuba allows to ask empirically and theoretically how Cuba ties in with previous findings in this field of research, whether and how it irritates them and calls for expansion. In this respect, the project contributes to the theoretical and empirical development of this field of research in the international context.

Principle Investigators: Vincent Horn and Cornelia Schweppe