39 LEE NG / SARAH WILLIS Supplemental Safety Net: An Innovative Model Paves the Way for Inclusive Insurance in China Despite rapid economic growth that has benefited many, hundreds of millions of people in China still remain outside the formal financial system without access to safe and affordable financial products. One of the biggest unmet financial needs is insurance. Salaried and wage- earning Chinese workers sometimes have insurance through their jobs, but many employees, especially those in social services, are severely underserved, and casual or self-employed workers are likely to have no coverage at all. China’s government recognizes that its current efforts to build a basic social security safety net can be complemented by private insurance expansion. The challenge—hardly unique to China—is how to make the commercial insurance market work for large numbers of the country’s large population of low- and moderate- income households. YiBao, an insurance research, development and marketing consultancy, was created to scale up coverage among China’s vulnerable population segments. YiBao’s founder, Zhou Ling, had run public welfare organizations since the early 2000s, and prior to that had been an elementary school teacher in a rural village. Her professional experiences gave her first-hand insights into the situation of low-income, low-protection segments including rural teachers, disabled people, migrant workers and people who remained in rural areas after family members migrated to cities. Those five groups alone amount to some 600 million people in China. Prior to launching YiBao in late 2014, Zhou Ling spent a year consulting with insurance executives. She discovered that the insurance industry tends to focus on more affluent population segments in part because reliable Photo: Matt Barber via Flickr.