More than one million South African policyholders died between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, new death claims statistics released by the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa) show. The statistics reflect claims made against individual life, group life (offered by employers), credit life and funeral cover policies.
The number of deaths increased by almost 310 000 from the previous year.
"These are staggering numbers and there is no doubt that Covid-19 has caused many of these additional deaths, whether directly as a result of a person contracting the virus or because people were reluctant to seek medical attention for other serious conditions," said Hennie de Villiers, deputy chair of the Asisa Life and Risk Board Committee. "The hard lockdown conditions, curfews and alcohol bans would have reduced violent and accidental deaths."
The large number of death claims add to evidence that South Africa’s official Covid-19 death toll of around 82 000 is a vast understatement. According to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the country has seen "excess deaths" – the number of fatalities that are more than what was forecast – of around 245 000, most of which can be attributed to Covid-19.
Both the official death toll and the SAMRC excess death numbers are for the period since the start of the pandemic until this week (17 months), while the Asisa numbers are only for 12 months. And unlike the Asisa excess death claims, the official and SAMRC numbers include both insured and uninsured lives.
Asisa says that almost R47.6 billion was paid out in death benefits in the year – 64% more than the previous year.
"The significance of the R47.58 billion in death benefits paid by life insurers in the 12 months to the end of March 2021 becomes evident when considered against the R60 billion paid by the government’s Covid-19 Temporary Employee-Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) to furloughed workers from inception in March last year to July 2021," said De Villiers.
He added that the South African life insurance industry held assets of R3.23 trillion at the end of 2020, while liabilities amounted to R2.89 trillion. This left the industry with free assets of R333.5 billion, which is more than double the capital required by the Solvency Capital Requirements.