Women finally reach parity with men in Insurance
New statistics reveal that as many women as men are now protecting their health and life with insurance. The research,
released by Sovereign, diffuses the myth that was once a fact, that males are the main person insured in a family.
The latest research by AC Nielsen1 shows that more women now have health insurance than men, with 38% of women insuring
themselves against ill-health compared with 34% of men in the year to June 2002. A higher proportion of women also have
life insurance. 46% of women holding life insurance, a statistic that is on the rise. This brings them to a similar
level as men, of whom 48% have life insurance.
New Zealand women are increasing their profile in the comparatively new domain of income protection insurance as more
women become the main breadwinner in the family. Women make up half the workforce today, and the latest statistics show
that 13% of working women have income protection insurance, compared with 17% of men.
Sovereign is increasing its focus on the specific needs of women in the insurance market and analysed this research to
determine emerging trends in New Zealand women’s insurance activity.
Sovereign’s Head of Operations, Jo Hutchinson, says it wasn’t so long ago that far fewer women than men held life
“It wasn’t until the 1970s that the stringent pre-requisites women had to meet to gain life assurance were relaxed.
Prior to that, it was customary for life assurance to be on the life of the breadwinner, and that was usually the man.
If a woman was single, then married, it was expected she would feel she no longer required a policy on her own life, and
would prefer one on the life of her husband. Such sentiments were even documented in insurance manuals at the time2.
“Now as many women as men are working, regardless of whether they have a family of their own. They are placing a higher
value on the future of their health and their life and want to protect it.”
Jo Hutchinson says the increasing trend of income protection amongst working women is one to watch.
“As more women enter the workforce, they are increasingly taking out income protection to protect their own financial
future, and that of their families. With women increasingly claiming the country’s top jobs and setting the benchmark
for other women to aim for higher incomes, it is logical to expect income protection to take higher priority. Many women
are the main breadwinners in a relationship, or solo mothers, and we believe this trend will continue to grow strongly.”
Research also shows that more women are self-starters in business than ever before. In 1998, a report from the Ministry
of Women’s Affairs3 said 40% of new businesses were started by women, and more than half of these women were under 40
years old. This was predicted to rise to 50% by 2002.
Sovereign looked into this increasing trend of self-employment amongst women, and Jo Hutchinson said some of the reasons
for the increase might be influenced by the widening gap in pay parity between men and women.
“We found that in 1936, the basic wage for New Zealand women was set by the Courts at 47% of the male rate4. When we
fast-forward 66 years to see how that has changed, the news is not positive for women. In the June quarter of 2002, the
average weekly income for New Zealand women was $403, while the average weekly wage for men was $639, meaning men now
earn 58% more per week than women5. While women might be meeting their insurance needs at the same rate as men now, pay
parity still has a long way to go.” This research is supported by research undertaken by others, such as the Retirement
Commission, and Women In Self-Employment (WISE). As part of Sovereign’s increasing presence in the women’s market, it is
sponsoring the Gaye Bartlett Collection for L’Oreal New Zealand Fashion Week for the second year.
Gaye Bartlett’s Winter 2003 collection is inspired from an era where investment dressing was born, the 1930s. Jo
Hutchinson says Sovereign’s research into women’s financial profile during this era in New Zealand sparked their
interest in the comparative behaviour of women in insurance today.
1. AC Nielsen Consumer Finance Monitor (based on women in paid employment compared to men in paid employment), year to
Quarter 2, June, 2002. 2. Colonial Mutual Life New Zealand, Colonial Mutual Life Handbook, July 1967 3. Ministry of
Women’s Affairs, Status of Women in New Zealand 1998, (www.mwa.govt.nz), 1998 4. Statistics New Zealand, New Zealand
Official Year-Book 1940, Government Printer, Wellington New Zealand, 1940 5. Statistics New Zealand, The New Zealand
Income Survey, June 2002 quarter