Cuba's government plans to lay off nearly 500,000 workers in the biggest economic changes the country has seen in decades. Cuban officials including Raul Castro have warned for years that the government cannot continue to subsidize all areas of Cuban life, and that some government workers were superfluous.

Now nearly 10% of the country's 5.1 million-strong work force will be looking for private employment, the Associated Press reported. The layoffs will begin immediately and continue for months, the Cuban Workers Confederation said. The Confederation has almost 3 million members and is the only labor union allowed by the government.

"Our state cannot and should not continue supporting businesses, production entities and services with inflated payrolls, and losses that hurt our economy are ultimately counterproductive, creating bad habits and distorting worker conduct," the union said.

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