Funding longer lives in Japan and Switzerland

The World Demographic and Ageing Forum on Japan and Switzerland was hosted at Swiss Re’s Centre for Global Dialogue, bringing together academic and industry experts from the two countries.

Based on a notion of information sharing, the event covered the challenges of filling labour shortages to support ageing societies, how innovation can ensure healthier, longer lives, the financial demands presented as populations age and government's role in addressing demographic change. Representatives from the re/insurance industry engaged in a lively discussion about how the experiences in the two countries are of mutual benefit in addressing the situation and the role of the industry in any potential solution.

Moderated by Swiss Re’s Rick Perdian, the panel included Ivo Furrer, CEO Switzerland of Swiss Life, Hirosyasu Hirata, Chief Representative, London Representative Office for Nippon Life, along with Swiss Re's Kenichi Kasai, Head of Client Markets Life & Health Japan and Stephen Kramer, Head of Epidemiological Research. With the debate framed around how we could honour retirement obligations while being equitable to a younger generation, the brief opening statements of Kasai and Furrer provided insight into the Life & Health insurance situation of Japan and Switzerland respectively.

United by commonalities; learning through differences

Despite a savings culture existing in both Japan and Switzerland, more is needed to protect people against the financial risks they may encounter in societies where people are outliving previous predictions of longevity.

The role of private insurers in both Japan and Switzerland is seen as providing additional protection to individuals over the national minimum which is provided by social insurance. The Swiss retirement system stands up particularly well in international comparisons – nevertheless a protection gap exists in both countries, especially in the area of long-term care.

Japan’s greater experience of an ageing society and a low interest rate environment means that Switzerland can learn a lot from the nation as it adapts to the current economic climate. Switzerland’s more extensive quantities of inward migration mean that their workforce is not falling as rapidly as Japan’s and this was cited as a potential area for greater analysis.

Formulating a blueprint

Overall the event was hailed a tremendous success, with the session on financing longer lives furthering the overall objective of formulating a blueprint for Japan and Switzerland to ensure that ageing societies remain beneficial in the longer term.

“It’s important that we share knowledge between nations,” concludes Stephen Kramer, Head of Epidemiological Research at Swiss Re. “This event was insightful and increased all parties’ understanding of a phenomenon that is affecting societies around the world. There was a strong consensus that reinsurers and insurers play a vital role in any solution.”

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