“It’s not about the probability of something happening. Accidents happen all the time. It’s about me sleeping better at night knowing that my children and family are protected,” one working mother in Beijing told us.
Inheritance and property rights are often applied differently to men and women, especially in the developing world, as was highlighted in the World Bank’s World Development Report on Gender Equality. Insurance can help protect assets that women are able to accumulate, or, in the words of another respondent in our new study, She for Shield: Insure Women to Better Protect All: “In case of divorce, the woman may end up losing their home to her husband. An insurance policy with investments under her name will give her some financial independence and security.”
She for Shield, released today by IFC, AXAGroup, and Accenture, is a first-of-its-kind report of the women’s insurance market in the emerging economies of Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Thailand, and Turkey.
The study of these 10 markets, based on in-depth interviews with industry representatives, brokers, agents, customers, regulators, and insurance associations, combined with economic modelling techniques, finds that by 2030 the insurance industry is expected to receive up to US$1.7 trillion premium contributions from women alone—half of it in just these 10 emerging economies.
The report identifies two main drivers for growth in the 10 markets: improvements in women’s socioeconomic conditions including an increased participation in the workforce enabling them to make their own spending decisions, and an increase in women’s willingness to invest in safety, protection and security for their families, dependents and for themselves, notably on insurance.
Despite persistent gender gaps, women globally earn and own more than ever before: their income is projected to increase globally from US$9.8 trillion in 2007 to US$15.6 trillion by 2017. Women’s incomes are expected to grow at a faster rate than men’s and they are expected to control nearly 75 percent of discretionary spending worldwide by 2028, a 2013 E&Y report indicates.
Women’s risk-awareness translates directly into a willingness to prioritize expenditures to achieve peace of mind. Across demographic segments in China, Mexico, and Nigeria, women indicated they were willing to spend 10-20 percent of their income to protect against future risks, whereas men would only allocate 7-10 percent for similar objectives.
Women, particularly working mothers, seek to include their parents, spouses, and children in their insurance policies. As clients, insurance companies value them because they are less likely to inflate insurance claims, and show stronger loyalty for their current insurance providers, the study finds.
Since women invest up to 90 percent of their income back into the health and education of their families, addressing their needs and preferences not only serves as a social investment, but makes perfect economic sense.
Smart insurance companies respond to women’s insurance preferences and needs by gathering more and better data, developing targeted products, and using specific distribution channels to create a trusted client/insurer relationship for their women customers. Recruiting more women as customer advisors and providing gender-sensitive training to all levels of customer-facing staff permit to better engage with female customers.
Female entrepreneurs represent a large and growing market. Research suggests emerging markets comprise some 8 million to 10 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with at least one female owner, generating substantial income and driving job creation. The current offer of insurance products to such entrepreneurs lacks a deep understanding of their specific risk and protection decisions. The one-size-fits-all approach does not always permit to make insurance sufficiently attractive.
In the absence of customized insurance products and solutions, women entrepreneurs may prefer to choose low-risk business strategies to reduce downside potential, thus restricting their growth potential, the report finds. Insurance can provide the safety net that allows entrepreneurs to anticipate and optimize risk, redirecting efforts and funds towards growth and sustainability.
Lifting constraints on women’s productivity is vital to driving the kind of shared growth we need to end poverty and build truly inclusive economies. Insurance responding to the demands of women is one of the tools that will remove some constraints. This eye-opening study should serve as a call to action for new thinking and further research about how insurance—as an integral part of all available financial services—can reengineer products and services that better serve the women’s market while achieving the broader goal of securing safety and prosperity for all.
This article is published in collaboration with World Bank Blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Nathalie Louat is Senior Manager in IFC’s Financial Institutions Group
Image: Members of a sewing circle run by woman entrepreneurs pose with garments in the town of Fungurume. REUTERS/Jonny Hogg