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2:59pm on Tuesday, 1st March, 2011:



The European Court of Justice has banned insurance companies from taking gender into account when calculating premiums.


Watching breakfast TV this morning, one would have been forgiven for thinking that the only effect of this was that young women would be paying more for their car insurance and young men would be paying less. In fact, it's a lot wider in scope than that: women live longer than men, and in the past have been paying higher life insurance premiums (premia?) for their pensions; now, they will pay less and men will pay more. If the ruling had gone the other way, it would only be a matter of time before some man challenged the government over National Insurance payments, on the grounds that women not only live longer than men, they use the National Health Service more than men, and therefore they should be paying more NI than men.

Economically, I don't think I'm much better off as a result of the ruling; I could even be worse off because of it. The reason I'm in favour of it, though, is because this is a battle that has already been fought before and lost. Statistically, people of some ethnic minorities are much more inclined to have car accidents than people of other ethnic minorities. They also have difference susceptibilities to illness. Insurers used to make them pay more for insurance, on the basis that the statistics showed that they were a higher risk. Nevertheless, the law was changed to stop them from doing this: statistics or not, it was identified as being racist. That being the case, why is distinguishing between people by gender not sexist? Either you allow this kind of profiling or you don't. The ECJ was right to come to the decision it did.

That said, if they extended it to ageism we wouldn't have much of an insurance industry left as a result...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).