Life insurances dominate the Japanese market
The insurance market in general can be divided into life insurance and non-life insurance, with the latter also being referred to as general insurance. Life insurance makes up the larger part of the insurance market in the case of Japan. The annualized premiums of individual life insurance policies in force amounted to about 28 trillion Japanese yen in fiscal year 2019. Some of Japan’s life insurers, such as Japan Post Holdings and Dai-ichi Life Insurance, are among the largest life insurance companies worldwide, based on market capitalization. The leading non-life insurance companies in Japan include companies such as Tokio Marine & Nichido, Sompo Japan, and Mitsui Sumitomo.
Development in recent decades
While Japan is home to some of the world’s largest insurance companies, the industry has been facing various challenges since the 1990s. The economic slump following the Bubble Economy of the late 1980s led to a decline of the insurance penetration rate, which until then had been the highest in the world. Life insurance premiums decreased during this time, while asset portfolios lost in value. During these years, the government liberalized the financial sector, which led to an increasing presence of foreign insurers and a restructuring of pricing regimes. As a result, insurance agencies, which are not bound to one specific company and can therefore act like brokers, gained in importance as a sales channel. The deregulation in general resulted in fiercer competition and a phase of consolidation. Facing a lacking growth potential in their domestic market, some companies decided to expand to overseas markets. More recently, low interest rates and a declining population have posed further challenges for insurance companies.