The potential to reduce the health protection gap is huge through raising pay and rights for women.
Marianne Gilchrist, managing director, head of L&H Globals and South Asia at Swiss Re, told InsuranceAsia News: “If we can achieve labour market gender parity – e.g. equal levels of work participation and equal pay, we estimate this could create a 26% increase in global GDP and would yield an additional US$2.1 trillion in global insurance premiums by 2029.”
Gilchrist (pictured) added: “It also models that gender equality would reduce existing health protection gaps in Asia by 11%. Women are often the primary decision makers when choosing insurance, especially in Japan.”
The Swiss Re Institute estimates that Asia’s health protection gap amounts to an estimated US$1.8 trillion, or around US$2,000 per household; unfortunately an astonishing 40 million households forego medical treatment each year.
Medical inflation is rising exponentially in many countries in the region and outpacing the consumer price index – particularly in Hong Kong. Incomes are not keeping up with medical inflation; while 10% of global GDP is spent on government healthcare costs, there are wide variation from country to country; for example, the figure is 17% in the US and 6% in Hong Kong.
One of the biggest demographic changes in the world is ageing – and where more is the case than in Asia – for example in Hong Kong, South Korea and China – where the issues with the one child policy are starting to kick in.
There will be two people over 65 for every one working age in Asia by 2045. Incredibly in 25 years, there will be more people aged over 65 in Asia than in the US and Europe combined.
The more affluent households become, the more older people need regular treatment for chronic diseases. While older individuals are becoming more aware of their responsibilities, at the moment governments are covering 60% of the costs, families 10%, insurers 5% and 25% is by individuals.
Gilchrist added: “The sandwich generation are increasing their coverage in the region for themselves, their children and their parents – so they are buying family plans – these are becoming more popular in Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. Individuals in Korea over 60 for example have been taking out cancer products for as little as US$20 a month. There was a particular gap in Korea as the country became rich relatively quickly.”
The largest demand in absolute terms come from China and India.

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