Insurance - a family affair

By Deanne Stewart, CEO, MetLife

When people consider their life insurance needs, they traditionally think of protecting their income. But insurance is about protecting more than money.  It’s about protecting lifestyle and family.  In fact it’s often starting a family that prompts people to consider life insurance.

So if it’s family that sparks the need for insurance, why is it that people tend to only consider the breadwinner and not the contributions of the broader family?

When calculating insurance needs we look at income and debts. But perhaps we should think more holistically, calculating and monetising the significant amount of unpaid work that goes into keeping a household running smoothly.

Data from the 2016 Census[1] shows that 26% of working Australians spend between 5–14 hours on unpaid domestic work every week, with a further 11.5% picking up between 15-29 hours and 9% spending more than 30 hours each week on unpaid work. 

And of course these unpaid work figures may be even higher if only part-time workers or stay-at-home parents were considered – both of whom are statistically more likely to be women.

It’s a lot of unpaid contribution each week and it’s not always feasible for the breadwinner to pick up the slack on top of their paid employment if something should happen to their partner.  To protect the income of the breadwinner, the solution maybe to outsource, and this could significantly hit the household budget. 

A new conversation

I believe we need a new conversation around insurance, moving from ‘breadwinner’ to ‘family’, and while it’s a conversation for everyone, I believe it’s women who can start it.

We know that women are statistically more likely to be on the hook for the majority of unpaid household work, and at the same time women are also increasingly playing a critical role in household financial decision-making.  While two-thirds of married women or those in de-facto relationships say they make joint decisions on financial matters, 27% say they make the majority of financial decisions in their household[2].

While men and women both have the drive to protect the family, women may have a more holistic view of running the household based on their contribution of both paid and unpaid work.  When combined with a woman’s role in financial decision-making, it’s a powerful blend that puts women in a very strong position to start this new conversation.




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