If women start accepting life insurance as an effective savings and protection tool, it can benefit crores of Indian families and the women themselves.
By Nirjhar Majumdar
Are women adequately insured in India? The answer is a clear ‘No’. Although 48% of the citizens are women, less than 30% of insurance policies are owned by them. That too, for inadequate sum assured. The risk cover purchased by women is 22% less than what men have purchased on an average. This is not good news for the life insurers and the insurable women of the country. Insurers are not able to reach out to the female population effectively, resulting in lower insurance penetration of the industry. Also, women are not able to see enough value in life insurance.
The role of women in society has undergone a sea change in India. They are better educated now and are earning fairly well. In many situations, they are the primary breadwinners of the family. Unless, women use life insurance as protection and savings tool, they are not likely to meet many of their financial goals.
Now, women have to support aged and disabled parents for a pretty long time. If something happens to the earning women, there will be no one to look after their parents. If there are life insurance policies with the provision of providing a lump sum or an annuity to the dependent parents, that can be a great help to the parents in the event of pre-mature death (or disablement) of their earning daughters.
Insurance for protection
Women should be made to understand that they need to buy life insurance not just to provide financial protection to their families, but primarily to make adequate future provision for themselves. How are women managing their finances now? Most of them let the male members of the family handle their finances.
Even our society does not always believe that women should be heavily insured. The result is there for all of us to see. According to an Irdai survey, 277 out of 10,000 males purchased life insurance in 2017-18. The corresponding figure for women is only 138. In other words, life insurance penetration is 50% less in women than in men! And this is happening when the participation of women in the regular workforce is on the rise everywhere in the country.
Most endowment type policies have borrowing facility to the tune of 90% of the surrender value, while protecting the risk cover. Money back policies are equally useful as these give a portion of the sum assured at pre-determined points of time, while the risk cover remains the same. This is an ideal way to reach the financial goals in time. Many life insurance policies offer critical illness riders at moderate cost. Such riders can help a woman meet expenses associated with medical treatment.
There should be more women-specific products in the country. The risks of a women’s life are different from men. Life insurers should launch products that can immediately appeal to women. If women customers start accepting life insurance as an effective savings and protection tool, that can benefit crores of Indian families and the women themselves.
That can benefit insurance industry, too. As on March 31, 2018, 27.8% of the agency force comprised women. That’s a big number since total number of insurance agents is more than 2 million now. The women customers can discuss their financial and health matters more freely with the women agents. So, insurers need to train their women agents specially, so that better penetration into the women’s segment becomes possible.
The writer is assistant secretary, Kolkata Audit Centre, LIC of India. All views expressed here are personal