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Cuba: Private employment now 22 percent of jobs

Twenty-two percent of Cuban workers were employed in non-governmental jobs last year, up from 16 percent in 2010, according to statistics released Thursday.

The increase in non-state jobs was most noticeable in agricultural cooperatives and in self-employment, both areas that are growing because of economic reforms that aim to ultimately slash state payrolls by as much as 1 million.

In a report posted on its website, Cuba's National Office of Statistics said the island had a total workforce of 5 million last year. Of those, 1.1 million were not employed by the state. Instead they were private entrepreneurs, worked for the burgeoning class of private small businesses or were part of independent cooperatives.

That compares with 2010, when just 801,000 of Cuba's 4.9 million workers did not work for the government.

That year, President Raul Castro announced his intention to slim down government and expand private economic activity to absorb layoffs. Authorities relaxed rules on private businesses, approved a number of new areas where Cubans can seek licenses to work independently and increasingly began handing over fallow state-owned land to independent farmers and cooperatives.

The only cooperatives currently operating in Cuba are in agriculture, but the government has announced plans to begin experimenting with urban cooperatives in areas such as construction and transportation by year's end.

Vice President Esteban Lazo recently said Cuba hopes to have 40 percent of the economy under non-governmental control in the coming years.