Low insurance among Māori

CFFC's Peter Cordtz speaks to Marae about the low uptake of insurance among Māori

CFFC's Peter Cordtz speaks to Marae about the low uptake of insurance among Māori

Māori have among the lowest rates of insurance of all ethnic groups in New Zealand, and their culture of taking care of each other may be partly the reason.

CFFC's Financial Capability Barometer survey of more than 20,000 people showed only 32% of Māori had house insurance compared to the average of 48% of New Zealanders, 40% had contents insurance compared to 55%, 50% had car insurance compared to 64%, 20% had health insurance compared to 29% and 32% had life insurance compared to 35%.  

By comparison, 53% of European and Chinese people had house insurance, 67% of Europeans had car insurance, and 42% of Indian people had life insurance. 

Head of Communities Peter Cordtz, who is Māori Samoan, says one reason for the low uptake among Māori could be the Māori cultural imperative of manaakitanga - generosity and support of those in need. 

After the death of a loved one, for example, whānau and hapū might cover the cost of the tangi and provide financial support for the bereaved family. 

"It's still important to understand why insurance exists and how to utilise it well. Let an insurance company carry financial risk rather than your community," says Cordtz.

Another reason for the low rate could be that there was a disproportionate number of Māori in low income groups, and insurance premiums could be one of the costs that dropped out of a budget when families were living paycheque to paycheque.

"It can become difficult to decide whether to spend on the here and now, or on what might happen," says Cordtz.

He acknowledged that premiums for health and life insurance can be weighted against Māori men in particular due to their increased risk of some diseases and shorter life expectancy. 

He also cautioned to be wary of unscrupulous insurance salespeople who might, for example, dress up unnecessary life insurance policies for children as investments in their future. 

"We still have an insurance sales model that is driven by commissions, and the conduct of some of those operating in that space is not what it should be."

This issue was being addressed by the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Kris Faafoi. He has introduced a raft of measures to protect consumers in their dealings with banks and insurers, with the Government scheduled to have them introduced to Parliament this year.

Besides that, Cordtz urged whānau to talk about the costs they could not afford if the unexpected happened, and explore the types of insurance that could protect them.