Are people willing to buy natural disaster insurance in China? Risk awareness, insurance acceptance, and willingness to pay


After the Wenchuan earthquake (magnitude 7.9, May 12, 2008), intensive debates on how China should establish a natural disaster insurance system were initiated among researchers, policymakers, and insurance professionals. Our focus was the social aspects of disaster insurance, explored in China through a nationwide survey. Our questionnaires investigated people’s risk awareness, insurance acceptance, their opinions on governmental measures for disaster management, and their willingness to pay for disaster house insurance. We analyzed the results at both regional and individual scales. We found that the integrated hazard index and respondents’ experience of insurance (considered objective factors), and their opinions on the importance of insurance and government responsibility (considered subjective factors) showed strong correlation with the regional overall acceptance of disaster insurance. An individual’s decision to participate highly depended on his/her experience of both insurance and disaster and his/her opinion on the importance of insurance as a coping mechanism. Respondents from poverty-stricken or less-developed counties were not necessarily more reluctant to accept natural disaster insurance, though they exhibited relatively lower ability to afford insurance. In general, respondents had correct perceptions of natural disasters in their areas; however, people from regions with a greater multihazard threat showed less willingness to accept disaster insurance because they tended to expect the government to undertake to cover losses and considered insurance to be less important. People’s willingness to pay for an assumed disaster house insurance was also investigated and analyzed. We consequently  discuss the policy implications for developing a disaster insurance system in China.