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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

485 Millions of Life Assurance in Force

485 Millions of Life Assurance in Force.

It has been estimated—I do not know on what basis—that the total amount of the life insurance policies in force in 1884 was about 450 millions; but I am inclined to place the figure somewhat higher, namely, at 485 millions. The total premium income of insurance offices, as reported to the Board of Trade in 1884, was £15,300,000; made up of ordinary companies £12,300,000, industrial companies £3,000,000. Perhaps 3 per cent, will be a fair average premium for the ordinary companies, and this will give total insurances of about 410 millions; and, taking the average policy at £500, we get the total number of policies in ordinary companies 820,000. For the industrial companies the average rate of premium will be a good deal higher, and the average policy very much smaller. If we take 4 per cent, as the average premium, this will give the total sum assured with the industrial companies as about 75 millions; and if we take the average sum assured at £10, the number of policies will be 7½ millions. The question now suggests itself whether these totals are satisfactory, having regard to the population and wealth of the country,—in other words, is it to be supposed that the practice of life insurance is as widely adopted as can reasonably be expected, having regard to the present circumstances of the population, so that any future development in the business must arise simply from the increase in the prosperity of the population of the country? Or, may we hope to see the practice of life insurance occupy a more important position than at present, relatively to the resources of the country? My own belief is, that the results at present obtained cannot be regarded as so satisfactory that we should be content with them. The business of the life insurance companies may, I believe, be largely increased, even if there should be no further increase in the population and wealth of the country. I cannot, however, under page 3 take to give figures in support of this opinion. Unfortunately, the course of my reading has not made me very familiar with the sources whence statistical information of this kind is to be obtained, and the time at my disposal has not permitted me to look up the necessary authorities. In order to make any satisfactory estimate on the subject it would be desirable to compare the premiums annually paid to the companies, as above stated, with the incomes of the population, as shown by the income-tax returns and inferred in other ways; also to compare the total amount of claims annually paid by the companies, nearly 12 millions, with the total amount of the estates of the persons who die each year, as deduced from the death duties. It would have to be borne in mind, also, that the figures I have given relate to policies, and not to lives assured; and that in order to determine the number of the latter, a very large deduction must be made from them on account of the same person in many cases having more than one policy on his life, either in the same or in different offices. The subject, in fact, offers a wide field of inquiry; and, as I do not see any probability of my being able to enter upon it and take possession of it myself, I venture to express the hope that some member of the Institute who wishes to contribute to its proceedings, and is looking out for a subject, will be led by my remarks to cultivate it and lay before us the results of his labours.