The market for insurance is affected by three main factors:
- The size of the eligible population
- Their need for insurance
- Their ability to pay for it
Rob Dowler, our preferred compliance consultant for large projects, suggested that I expand on the role that immigration plays in the growth in our market and whether that places constraints on whether people can buy insurance.
Some additional information about how the size of the eligible population changes can help to put this into the right context. Showing data from 2018 to illustrate how a more 'normal' year works, accepting that 2020 is far from normal and there has been a sharp rise in both long-term departures and long-term arrivals, and a sharp decline in short-term departures and arrivals.
New working age residents added about 44,000 people, plus there were about 62,000 children who reached working age. This addition of just over 100,000 was somewhat off-set by 44,000 people who reached retirement age and about 8,000 people who died during working life. These movements exclude those people on student or short-term working visas. Although a number of students eventually become permanent residents, they are only counted when they achieve that status.
We have tended to assume that demand for insurance is constant on a per person basis. Of course, it isn't. Usually debt increases the demand for cover, but not all debt is equal. Household debt is usually insured, consumer credit debt often isn't - so as home ownership rates have dropped due to the high cost of housing, there has been some hit to demand. But this is a very small reduction in demand compared to the size of the underinsurance gap - which we estimate to be about a million people who are in-work.
The ability to pay for cover receives only modest attention, usually as we consider the cost of cover relative to age. It will receive additional attention as the economic crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic plays out in New Zealand. Unemployment is forecast to rise from a little over 4% to about 10% under even the best case scenario. We can expect to see a reduction in average household income for the current quarter and very slow real wage increases in the next couple of years. Limiting the ability of New Zealander's to pay for cover will cause an increase in lapse rates. The interaction of the high cost of housing and lower wage growth will constrain a proportion of budgets.