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Decline in Insurance Agent Numbers in Singapore Since 2015

In response to a parliamentary question from Patrick Tay Teck Guan of Pioneer SMC, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong, revealed a significant decrease in the number of insurance agents in the workforce over the past three years.

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), figures presented during the Parliament Sitting on April 2 indicated a steady downward trend. In 2021, the total number of life and composite insurance agents was 15,205. This number dropped to 14,546 in 2022, and further declined to 13,934 in 2023. Similarly, general insurance agents also saw a reduction, decreasing from 4,105 in 2021 to 3,777 in 2023.

Conversely, despite a challenging year marked by several rounds of cooling measures and high interest rates, the number of property agents in Singapore continued to grow, albeit at a more moderate pace. As of December 31, 2023, 96% of property agents with valid registrations in 2023 renewed them for 2024.

Demographic Breakdown

Detailed breakdowns of age, gender, and nationality were provided for life and composite insurance agents. Most of these agents were under the age of 40, reflecting a younger demographic engaged in the insurance sector. Additionally, there was an almost equal distribution of male and female agents, demonstrating gender parity within the industry. Notably, around 90% of these agents were Singapore citizens, with the rest primarily being permanent residents.

Employment and Educational Standards

The MAS and the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) do not distinguish between full-time or part-time employment status of insurance agents. This lack of distinction suggests a flexible work structure within the industry, accommodating various working arrangements. Moreover, while the MAS and GIA do not collect information on the academic qualifications of agents, it is mandated that all agents meet minimum educational standards. This requirement ensures a baseline level of competency and professionalism among agents, despite the lack of detailed academic data.

Appeals Since 2015

In another parliamentary response, Wong addressed the issue of appeals received by the MAS regarding difficulties in obtaining insurance coverage for individuals with disabilities, those on the autism spectrum, and individuals with mental health issues. Responding to a question from Rachel Ong of West Coast GRC, Wong noted that over the past three years, MAS had received fewer than 10 appeals or complaints on these specific issues. Before this period, MAS recorded an average of less than one case per year concerning similar concerns.

This low number of appeals suggests that while there are challenges in obtaining insurance coverage for vulnerable groups, such issues are relatively infrequent. However, the fact that these cases exist highlights the need for ongoing attention to inclusivity and accessibility within the insurance sector.

Broader Implications

The decline in the number of insurance agents may reflect broader trends within the financial and insurance sectors in Singapore. Factors such as technological advancements, changing consumer behaviors, and regulatory changes could be influencing the workforce dynamics. For instance, the increasing adoption of digital platforms and insurtech solutions might be reducing the reliance on traditional insurance agents.

Additionally, the demographic data showing a young and gender-balanced workforce is a positive indicator of diversity and potential for innovation within the industry. The high percentage of Singaporean agents underscores the local nature of the industry, which could be beneficial for understanding and meeting the specific needs of the Singaporean market.

The steady decline in the number of insurance agents in Singapore over the past three years is a notable trend that warrants attention. While the industry remains predominantly local and diverse in terms of age and gender, the decrease in agent numbers suggests potential shifts in the market landscape. Addressing the challenges faced by vulnerable groups in obtaining insurance coverage remains a critical issue, highlighting the need for continued efforts to enhance inclusivity and support within the insurance sector.

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