The big insurance markets collected $4.3 trillion last year

The world’s big insurance markets collected almost US$4.3 trillion in premiums in 2008, according to new statistics.

After adjusting for inflation total premiums for life and non-life actually declined by 2%. Global life premiums fell by 3.5% in 2008, non life premiums decreased by 0.8%.

Life insurers were hit worst by the recession, mainly in the second half of 2008. Life insurance premiums in industrialised countries dropped by 5.3% ($2,219 bn). In contrast the market continued to grow in the emerging markets where it accelerated by 14.6%.

Non-life insurance remained profitable despite the fall in premiums in 2008, said Swiss Re. In contrast to the life sector, non-life premiums declined only marginally by 0.8% in ($1,779 bn), mainly due to lower demand for cover and softening rates.

While non-life premiums fell 1.9% in the industrialised countries, growth in the emerging markets remained strong at 7.1% compared to 2007 levels.

Underwriting results in non-life remained equally positive in most markets, said the reinsurer, despite very high losses from natural catastrophes. Towards the end of the year, rate increases were observed in selected countries and lines of business, added Swiss Re.

As the economic downturn curbs demand, non-life real premiums are expected to remain flat in 2009, predicted Swiss Re.

Concluded the reinsurer: ‘Demand for additional cover should increase in 2010 along with the economy. Profitability in non-life is likely to improve, mainly due to rising prices and stronger investment results.’