I recently looked into purchasing some personal effects insurance. The more items I added, and the longer that I wanted to the policy to last, the greater the risk to the company concerned that one of these items would be lost or stolen. Thus, with each item that I added, and each month that I extended the hypothetical policy for, the more the premium increased. You see, insurance policies are based on risk – everyone knows that. Except, it seems, for the European Court of Justice.
Yesterday the ECJ made the decision to prohibit the use of gender in insurance underwriting. This is likely to have the greatest effect on car insurance, life insurance, and pension annuities, and once again, it is women who will be hit the hardest. A male driver under the age of 21 is statistically twice as likely to have an accident as a female driver of the same age. However, despite such statistical and historical evidence displaying beyond a shadow of a doubt that being male or female has an effect on the size and frequency of car insurance claims, insurers will no longer be able to use gender to determine the level of risk that a person presents.
Already, financial experts have stipulated that whilst young men’s premiums will only come down by 10%, young women’s will rise by around 25% on average, and by as much as 60% for the youngest female drivers. According to the British Insurance Broker’s Association; “Effectively, females will now pay a cross-subsidy for males on their insurance premiums.” This decision was supposedly made in the name of equality, but I struggle to see how making women pay for men’s ineptitude on the roads furthers the case of gender equality.
Furthermore, women may end up paying not only with their pockets, but also with their lives. As Adrian Webb from Esure says; “If young men’s premiums are artificially reduced, this could lead to more opting to choose more powerful vehicles,” he said. “It is particularly alarming given that the head of the Association of Police Officers in the UK in 2005 noted that the biggest killer of young women in Britain is their boyfriend’s and male friends’ driving.”
The case is similar with life insurance; according to the ABI, women could see a 20% rise in the cost of life insurance, while men could benefit from a fall of about 10%, and whilst men stand to suffer a fall of about 8% in income from their annuities on retirement, most annuities are bought by men, which means that many wives who are dependent on their husbands’ retirement incomes will also lose out.
This decision has been made in the name of equality, but all that it has actually done is created more inequality. If the ECJ wants to outlaw the use of gender in insurance underwriting, then it also needs to outlaw decisions based on other risk factors, such as age, pre-existing health conditions, and occupation. If women must subsidise men’s policies, then in a truly “fair” system older drivers must also subsidise younger drivers, the healthy must also subsidise the sick, and the doctor (considered to be amongst of the “safest” of drivers), must also subsidise the journalist (considered one of the riskiest professions).
The way to achieve gender equality is not by treating men and women exactly the same. Men and women are inherently different, and the law courts need to recognise this. Take the example of positive discrimination. Advocates of “equality” decry positive discrimination; “men and women should always be treated equally”, they say. However, what they fail to acknowledge is the historical context; men and women have not been treated equally for hundreds of years, and there is a whole backlog of discrimination to compensate for.
Take, for example, the UK Parliament. At the current rate that women are being elected, it would take around 200 years, or 40 General Elections, to achieve gender equality in the House of Commons. Women should not have to wait that long to be represented in Parliament. There are still some seats in the United Kingdom in which a woman has never been elected. However, in 1997 the UK saw more women enter Parliament than ever before. Just ten years before, in 1987, only 6% of MPs were women, yet women now make up almost 20% of all MPs. The reason for this significant increase is that The Labour Party has introduced All Women Shortlists to select some candidates. The policy was almost outlawed after a legal challenge, but was legalised in the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act (2002).
In this case the law has succeeded to recognise that not only does a bias against women in public opinion create a barrier to election, but so does a long history of oppression and underrepresentation, and the law has allowed women to be treated differently to men accordingly. This historic discrimination against women has also been recognised in employment law; The Equality Act (2010) allows for positive action, which is not the same a positive discrimination, but merely allows an employer to choose to hire a woman over a man, providing they have the same skill set, to address a gender imbalance. Furthermore, The Act also allows employers to advertise for a specifically female employee where appropriate, for example in a rape crisis centre, or a women’s refuge. Thus, the UK has recognised the differences between men and women in other aspects of the law, without falling foul of Europe.
Men and women are inherently different, and if the law fails to recognise and reflect this then true equality will never be achieved. Advocates of yesterday’s decision claim it as a victory for equality, but it isn’t. The decision is a victory for inequality; a victory for unfairness. Men and women present different risks to insurers, in terms of health conditions, life expectancy, and behaviours, and for the ECJ to fail to recognise this, to the detriment of women, is an absolute travesty, and a miscarriage of justice.