Is the Protection Industry Failing the Record Number of Working Women?

More Women in Employment Drives Workforce Expansion

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures reveal that there are more women in the workplace than any time since comparable records began in 1971. Given that women made up 15.6 million out of a total of 32.9 million workers as of the 3 months to November 2019, we’ve got to start asking ourselves serious questions as protection advisers.

The statistics show that the annual increase in the number of people in work was largely driven by women working full-time, up to a record high of 9.3 million, meaning there’s more female participation in the workforce than ever before.

The past three decades have seen a great deal of change. One factor is that the number of women economically inactive (that is those without a job but not classed as unemployed because they’ve not been actively seeking work within the past 4 weeks and / or are unable to start work in the next 2 weeks) because they’re looking after the home / family has fallen from 2.9 million in 1993 to 1.7 million today.

This reduction has been a result of changes at both ends of the age spectrum. Employment statistics from the ONS run from age 16-64, so at the top end of the age spectrum captured women who retired at 60 because that was their state pension age. Now that is no longer the case, more women are working longer as a result.

At the lower end of the age spectrum, fewer younger women are choosing to stay home and more are deciding to go out to work.

What Should Advisers Take Away from This?

As mentioned, it’s time for advisers to really consider how we can better serve working women in light of these statistics.

Women tend to be less likely to insure their incomes or protect their lives than men, which could be disastrous if something were to happen to a key earner in a household, as the growing number of women working full time doubtless are.

Why is this the case?

It’s hard to say why exactly women are generally less likely to have Income Protection than men, although it may be down to the fact that, historically, fewer women were in work or working full-time and so either didn’t have an income or didn’t feel the need to cover the income they had.

I’ve certainly had clients in the past concerned much more about protecting a husband / male partner’s income than the income of a wife / female partner, even if their earnings are very similar.

Samantha Haffenden-Angear
Independent Protection Expert at Drewberry

This could be because women have traditionally not worked, or if they have earned less than men and so don’t tend to view their input to the household as important. However, as these statistics show, things are very different today so as advisers we need to do more about addressing the imbalance between the sexes when it comes to protection products.

Adequate protection can be the financial lifeline either partner may need during such difficult times

Even where one partner does stay at home entirely to take care of the family and the home, it may be prudent to have some level of protection for them should they become critically ill or pass away.

This is because, for the working partner to continue working, they’d likely have to get some help around the home to look after children and the like if the partner who stays at home fell ill or died, which would come at a cost.

TV Presenter Simon Thomas on losing his wife

One particularly powerful case study to have come out of the industry in recent years was that of television present Simon Thomas, who tragically lost his wife Gemma to leukaemia.

Although Simon was the breadwinner, the insurance they’d purchased as a couple proved invaluable when Gemma died because the payout on Gemma’s death alleviated financial concerns and gave him the time to process and grieve with his young son.

Are Things Changing?

While we’ve seen a rise in women seeking out Accident and Sickness Insurance in recent years, the majority of the clients who fill in the form on our website remain men.

Clearly we need to do more as an industry. Is our media outreach and advertising too male-centric? Do we need to be producing more case studies of women who have taken out Income Protection and make use of those assets, such as the story of psychologist Jo Clarke from York?

Perhaps we simply need to include more women in adverts and promotional content to make it clear that a protection policy such as Income Protection is for anyone who needs it, regardless of sex.

Whatever the solution — and there must be a solution given record high female participation in the workplace — it can’t come soon enough.

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