A new national survey conducted by Rose Marketing Ltd. among Cuban residents, shows that many Cubans earn much more than the official government average monthly wage of 687 pesos ($29). The average standard of living is improving (slowly), the private sector is growing (quickly) and most have at least some access to the Internet (finally).

The Rose study reveals that many Cubans earn far more than the figures widely reported in international media. According to the survey, 34% of Cubans earn the equivalent of $50 – $100 per month. Also, 20% earn $101 – $200, 12% earn $201 – $500 and nearly 4% earn over $500 per month (including 1.5% who earn over $1,000). Most important, 70% of Cubans expect their incomes to increase in the next six to twelve months – evidence of the optimism that has been spreading across the island over the past few years – and especially since the announcement of a renewed relationship with the USA. Of course, these income figures are relatively low in contrast to other nations and the average Cuban still struggles to make ends meet, but should be taken in context that Cubans receive free healthcare and education, as well as minimally subsidized living expenses.

The survey debunks the myth that Cubans are entirely cut off from the Internet. While high-speed connectivity is rare in Cuba, 77% of respondents have some access to the Internet. They mostly connect from their smartphones at the local hotspots popping up across the island (66%), but also from their homes (12%) or offices (16%). They may not connect as frequently as in other countries or have the capacity to stream or download significant content, but Cubans are very much online – albeit at a hefty 2 CUC ($2) per hour. To keep up with the latest entertainment and world news Cubans without broadband, 62% of citizens purchase the Paquete Semanal (Weekly Package), which is a collection of (mostly pirated) movies, television (yes, Cubans also eagerly await the next episode Game of Thrones!), games, magazines and other digital content distributed on hard drives that act as a surrogate for the worldwide web. It is interesting to note that, in all fairness, 84% of those Cubans who buy Weekly Package would be willing to pay even more for legal quality content if it were available and accessible.

Social media engagement is growing and has become a part of normal life in Cuba with 68% of Cubans claiming they have a Facebook account, Instagram (19%), Twitter (13%) and Google+ (20%). Approximately 57% of Cubans have an email address.

The survey results also reveal that consumer buying habits in Cuba for a variety of goods and services is evolving as incomes grow. With their newfound optimism and higher incomes, Cubans plan to buy home appliances (16%), fashion cloths (13%), perfume (15%), airplane tickets (12%), shoes (12%), automobiles (7%), laptops (6%), smartphones (5%) and a variety of other goods and services over the next six to twelve months.

Rose was surprised to learn that nearly 80% of respondents claim that advertising, which is rarely seen in Cuba, would influence their choice of brands or products.

This is good news for foreign companies who have set their sites on establishing business with or on the island. It’s also a positive signal for the Cuban government that its relatively new policy of encouraging private enterprise is already a benefit to its economy,” said Rose General Director, Galina Savina.

SOURCE: The Survey was conducted by Rose Marketing Ltd. among 1067 Cuban citizens in May and June 2016, in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Camaguey, Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos. The survey has a 95% level of confidence with a margin of error of +/- 3%.

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Cuba infographic
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Cuba social media