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Women have less income protection than men, survey finds

MORE than a third of women (35 percent) cite income as their greatest asset (versus 22 percent of men), yet only 16 percent have income protection compared to 20 percent of men, according to Sanlam Individual Life’s recent survey.

The data collected from over 900 South Africans highlighted the insurance gap between the genders.

Women earned up to 35 percent less than men for work of equal value, which then impacted their ability to guard against life’s curve balls.

Karen Bongers, a product actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, said this week that, 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 percent 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,” Bongers said.

The survey also found that should a woman lose her income, she was less likely to be able to cover her bond or rent – even for just one month. Only 26 percent of women had sufficient risk cover in place to continue paying their bond/ rent long-term and 29 percent would not be able to pay it at all.

However, the picture was different for men, as 39 percent had sufficient cover to pay their bond/rent long-term and only 14 percent were completely unable to cover it. Men remained better positioned to pay these costs than women. This, in a country of women-headed households, was concerning.

Most women (44 percent) without income protection perceived the product as too expensive, which may point to the earning gap between the genders.

When considering what types of risk cover women need, Bongers said death cover was pivotal for women who were 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 dependants. Finally, severe illness cover is an important consideration for protection against the financial implications of a major illness.”

Bongers also cited Sanlam Individual Life’s 2021 claims statistics for additional insights into the cover, especially pertinent to women. They showed that 66 percent of severe illness claims from women were for cancer. It was, therefore, important for women to consider whether their policies had comprehensive cover for cancer, including cover for early cancer and mastectomies.

C-section and pregnancy complications were common reasons for claims under Sanlam’s Sickness benefit. Women who intend to have children should check whether their income protection covers these incidents.

Bongers said the right choices were not 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,” Bongers said.


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