Category Life Insurance

The gender pay gap contributes to underinsurance in women

02 August 2022 Sanlam

More than a third of women (35%) cite income as their greatest asset (versus 22% of men), yet only 16% have income protection compared to 20% of men.

This comes from Sanlam Individual Life’s recent survey of over 900 South Africans, which highlighted the insurance gap between the genders. Women earn up to 35% less than men for work of equal value, impacting their ability to guard against life’s curveballs.

Karen Bongers, Product Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, says, “According to the United Association of SA (UASA), following the pandemic, the projected time to close the gender gap has gone from 99.5 to 135.6 years. In a country where 38% of households are headed by women, this has major ramifications. The pay gap contributes to women struggling, more than men, to protect themselves against the unexpected, through adequate cover and savings.”

Here are some findings from the Sanlam survey:
- Should a woman lose her income, she is less likely to be able to cover her bond or rent – even for a month. Only 26% of women had sufficient risk cover in place to continue paying their bond/ rent long-term and 29% would not be able to pay it at all. The picture is quite different for men however, with 39% having sufficient cover to pay their bond/ rent long-term and only 14% completely unable to cover it. Men remain better positioned to pay these costs than women. In a country of women-headed-households, this is concerning.
- Most women (44%) without income protection perceive the product as too expensive, which may point to the earning gap between the genders.

The types of cover women should consider
When considering what types of risk cover women need, Bongers says, “Death cover is pivotal for women who are sole breadwinners, such as single mothers. It’s also very important in dual income households where the family relies on both incomes. In addition, disability- and income protection cover provide critical financial protection to anyone rendered unable to work due to illness or injury, including single women with no dependents. Finally, severe illness cover is an important consideration for protection against the financial implications of a major illness.”

Bongers also cites Sanlam Individual Life’s 2021 claims statistics for additional insights into the cover especially pertinent to women.
- 66% of severe illness claims from women were for cancer. It is therefore important for women to consider whether their policies have comprehensive cover for cancer, including cover for early cancer and mastectomies.
- C-section and pregnancy complications are common reasons for claims under Sanlam’s Sickness benefit. Women who intend to have children should check whether their income protection covers these incidents.

How women can plan for ‘what ifs’ when money is tight
Bongers says, “The right choices aren’t always the easy ones. Choose them anyway, when at all possible. Investing in these products now could save you from serious financial stress should the unexpected occur. Ask yourself ‘who will pay for my family’s monthly expenses should I be unable to work?’ Consider a scenario where the loss of income is temporary and one where it’s permanent. Sit down with your monthly budget to see if there are any non-essential outflows you can redirect to a life insurance premium. If you cannot fully cover your risk needs, try to cover as much as you can.”

“Prioritise based on what’s most essential – for many people, this is cover that will replace an income should they be unable to work. It’s also useful to know that some life insurers have different products at varying price points, for example, Sanlam’s Classic range, designed for clients who are price sensitive yet need proper cover. Remember to ask how premiums will increase over time – options that have much cheaper premiums upfront could increase exponentially, which could mean affordability issues later.”

Bongers adds that a trusted financial planner can help you set up a realistic financial roadmap that meets your risk cover needs. “Tough money conversations today can prevent even tougher times in the future. Thinking about the future now provides peace of mind in the present. At Sanlam, we empower our clients to move towards financial confidence by developing market-leading, tailored solutions that ensure they are properly covered not just for today, but for life-changing events in the years to come.”

Quick Polls


How confident are you that insurers treat policyholders fairly, according to the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) principles?


Very confident, insurers prioritise fair treatment
Somewhat confident, but improvements are needed
Not confident, there are significant issues with fair treatment
fanews magazine
FAnews June 2024 Get the latest issue of FAnews

This month's headlines

Understanding prescription in claims for professional negligence
Climate change… the single biggest risk facing insurers
Insuring the unpredictable: 2024 global election risks
Financial advice crucial as clients’ Life policy premiums rise sharply
Guiding clients through the Two-Pot Retirement System
There is diversification, and true diversification – choose wisely
Decoding the shift in investment patterns
Subscribe now