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Cuba will let people work for themselves

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
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Cuba's new private sector
  • Cubans can work for themselves in 178 activities
  • Move comes as Cuba cuts 500,000 state jobs
  • State media says more details of plan will be soon be unveiled

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cubans will be allowed to work for themselves in 178 activities in the private sector and even hire employees, according to guidelines published Friday as the communist government moves quickly to shed half a million state jobs and provide alternatives for workers.

Cubans will be permitted to be self-employed carpenters, restaurateurs, barbers and even salsa dancers. Many of the categories already existed, but the government hadn't granted new licenses for years, which meant that the total number of self-employed people in Cuba's 5.1 million-strong workforce was just 143,000.

The new list of occupations published in state media includes seven new categories, among them accountants and bathroom attendants.

It also says that for the first time in decades, these private entrepreneurs will be allowed to hire nonrelatives and access credit.

Video: New business class emerging
  • Cuba
  • Raul Castro
  • Economic Issues

The measures are aimed at "raising levels of productivity and efficiency," according to state-run newspaper Granma, and eliminating the social "stigma" long associated with self-employment in the socialist system.

Last week, Cuba announced it would eliminate "at least" 500,000 state jobs, or 10 percent of the public sector workforce, over the next six months and pave the way for more private enterprise.

This is the most dramatic move yet by President Raul Castro to reshape the country's sputtering economy, but he insists the socialist system will not be altered.

The announcement got mixed reactions from Cubans. Some are concerned that a way of life ­ and a guaranteed fixed income ­are disappearing.

Others are optimistic that they will be able to make more money in the private sector. The average state salary is just $20 a month.

But many details, like how much these entrepreneurs will have to pay in taxes, social security and licensing fees, are still missing.

State media said more details would be soon be unveiled.