Financial Services in the National Accounts: The Insurance Industry
Among business sectors, the insurance industry is known for its great variation of real net output over the year – a pattern generated less by smoothly incoming revenue flows from premium payments, but primarily by the accidental nature of loss events. Thus, when observing the real net output over time, the high proportion of transfers within the risk pool as a ratio of overall transactions in the insurance industry needs to be considered. To this end, Eurostat specifies a precise procedure and adjusts the payment flows by transfers. The National Accounts describe the value of all final products and services produced within a given period in Austria. They illustrate economic activities from three points of view: production, use and income distribution. As a mirror of the national income accounting, the capital finance account comprises the assets and liabilities of individual business sectors. The insurance industry plays just a small part in the national income accounting, but a comparatively larger one in the capital finance account. Private insurance is quite a small sector, at just 1.5 percent of the real value added. In the NACE classification scheme of economic activities, Eurostat has assigned it a two-digit group of its own, together with the pension funds (NACE 66). The low contribution to the real net output is due to the high degree of asset transfers within the risk pool. Much of the insurance premiums received is paid out again by way of benefits to households or companies that have suffered losses. Moreover, life and health insurance contracts involve capital accumulation over time, since benefits as a rule are paid out at the end of the contract period. In view of its high investment volumes, the insurance business is a major economic factor in the capital finance account. Gross output of the insurance industry is computed year-round by WIFO using Eurostat's "B method". This method provides for the claims payments and increase in actuarial reserves to be deducted from the premium intakes and investment income. In view of the considerable variations in claims, this method produces high rates of change between quarterly values. Using preliminary values directly in the quarterly accounts would affect the business cycle pattern, so that the quarterly values are subjected to a dampening mechanism while retaining the year-round pattern.
Finanzdienstleistungen in der VGR: Die Versicherungswirtschaft; Financial Services in the National Accounts: The Insurance Industry
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