China tests micro-insurance for rural poor
Updated: 2008-10-11 15:03

The group-based micro-insurance products are tailored for low-income people, as they require a relatively lower annual premium compared with insurance products designed for their urban counterparts.

To achieve a sustainable and healthy development of micro-insurance, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said it would establish an evaluation mechanism for micro-insurance products. It would also explore more distribution channels to promote such products, while at the same time encourage insurers to introduce more of these products.

There were already a range of similar micro-insurance products available on the market, though not group-based, as insurance companies came up with new products to grasp opportunities in the vast rural areas.

By example, a micro-life insurance product developed by China Life Insurance, the country's largest life insurer, offered an eight-time refund on an annual premium of 100 yuan ($14.62) for farmers to guard against fatal accident.

Such products were more affordable for farmers, if compared with regular products that would ask for an annual premium of several thousand yuan or more.

The per capita net income of farmers reached 4,140 yuan in 2007, according to Chinese officials, however, it still fell short of more than 10,000 yuan on average for urbanites.

China Life Insurance covered 1.2 million farmers with such life insurance in 2007, according to the CIRC.

There were also other micro-insurance products specifically targeting different sectors, such as planting, livestock breeding, farmers' homes, farm machinery and farmers' household property, as well as micro-medical insurance and insurance against micro-loans, a practice adopted in rural areas to provide more financial products there.

"At present, both government agencies and commercial insurance companies are involved to improve insurance coverage in rural areas," said Chen Wenhui, the CIRC's chairman assistant.

Currently, more than 90 percent of life insurance products are provided and managed by commercial insurers.

"Joint efforts of government and companies are multilaterally beneficial to parties involved," Chen said. "The government is partly relieved from pressure to extend insurance coverage for low-income people. Insurance seekers are better guaranteed due to the involvement of government agencies. Insurers are able to tap the market potential."

Chen said the commission would also learn from international practices to boost micro-insurance in rural areas.

It's anticipated a series of policies will be rolled out this year to boost the development of agricultural insurance.

"Overall research work will be conducted on the insurance premium in planting and breeding sectors, and efforts will be made to establish a reinsurance system in agriculture and disaster insurance system," said finance minister Xie Xuren.

The CIRC will also coordinate with the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, China's Cabinet, and other relevant departments to form regulations on agricultural insurance.

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