With remittances from sending tens of thousands of doctors and nurses abroad to care for the poor, Cuba is doubling some medical salaries to as much as $67 per month.
Though a true comparison between U.S. and Cuban salaries is complicated by stark differences between the two systems, specialists in America tend to earn 35 percent more than the average of counterparts around the world, according to a survey from Forbes. Whereas the “average” U.S. general practitioner spends some 54 hours per week for an annual salary of $185,000, medicine is a different animal on the scorned island-nation led by the Marxist-Leninist Raul Castro. Supplemented by a social welfare state, the average government worker makes just $20 per month by comparison.
Cuba’s official state media announced this week hundreds of thousands of medical workers would receive pay raises that in some cases doubled their annual salaries. Top-performing doctors with not one but two specialties may now earn as much as $804 per year, Granma reported, whereas entry-level nurses will now make $25 per month.
Sounding more like a capitalist country, Granma reported the government decided to raise pay for medical workers after eliminating more than 100,000 redundant positions during the past several years.
"This is very good news that makes me tremendously happy. ...With my first paycheck I'm going to buy a toy for my youngest grandson, who's 3," Soraida Pina, a 62-year-old nurse, told CNBC. "This will open new doors for me."
Yet other medical professionals said they were less thrilled by the pay raises. "They had talked to us about this, and it's very important for the family economy, but it continues to be a salary that means very little because everything is very expensive," Laura Vazquez, a 38-year-old pathologist, said.
Granma also said the nation would raise pay for medical personnel sent abroad to countries such as Brazil and Venezuela. The larger salaries "will contribute to the stability and quality of the medical services for the people, as well as fulfill international commitments," Granma reported. Today, Cuba exports medical care like the U.S. exports its military. With some 11 million people, the island nation has deployed more than 50,000 medical workers in 66 nations around the world.