So, it is in the news that insurance companies (e.g. car insurance, life insurance, etc) are no longer allowed to price based on gender. i.e. sex discrimination laws now apply to insurance.
Once again I find myself feeling that the world has gone mad. And once again I find myself defending an industry I normally dislike.
Women campaigned for equality, quite rightly. They suffered from arbitrary and prejudiced discrimination. It is clear that such discrimination was wrong.
But ultimately, true equality is not sensible. People are not equal. It is a simple fact of life. Some people are smarter than others. Some are stronger. Some are healthier. And, in some cases, there are statistical differences that are specifically gender related. We recognise this in sports - where there is a clear difference and it is the case that a mixed gender sport would leave only one gender winning, we split the events. We even do this for people with disabilities.
The way insurance companies work is that they use statistics. Information on previous claims and on characteristics of the insured person which allow them to determine risk and hence price of insurance. They use a lot of factors, including age, health, history of claims or accidents, type of car, all sorts. They are keen to make their risk assessment as accurate as possible. They have found, just like sporting events, that gender is a factor, in both life insurance and motor insurance.
Now, this discrimination is not an unfounded prejudiced bias, but a statistical bias. It is one of the few areas where the bias is scientifically based and a reflection of reality. Forcing them to ignore gender has the impact of increasing prices for women, which I am sure is not the intention of the activists that brought about sexual equality in the first place.
But this then leads to interesting issues. What happens as more and more insurers work using in-car monitoring equipment and so price your policy based on your driving style. This is totally un-biased, but if, as is likely to be the case, they find that statistically people priced in this way get lower prices if they are women than men, will they be forced to somehow bias the pricing to make it balance? You would think insurers could say "we don't care what sex you are, just how well you drive", but that is, in effect, what they did already, and that has been banned.
There are, in some areas, anti age discrimination rules. Imagine if life insurance was forced not to consider age? That would make it impossible to get life assurance as they would have to work on the assumption that you are 105 already. After all, if not, everyone would wait until they are old to get life assurance.
There are times when I agree with Prof Farnsworth on this...