Swiss Re Institute has estimated that primary insurers ceded about $260 billion, or 5%, of direct premiums written to the global reinsurance markets in 2018.
More than three quarters of this total ($200 billion) were non-life premiums, which had a higher cession rate of around 8.4%.
In contrast, only around 2% of life premiums were ceded to reinsurers, representing about $60 billion.
Swiss Re attributed the difference to the dominance of savings premiums in life, which are typically not reinsured.
In non-life, cession rates among emerging regions – particularly emerging Asia (excluding China), the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – are higher than overall, indicating that these countries are of higher importance in the reinsurance sector than in the primary industry.
The U.S and Canada continue to dominate the markets in reinsurance, representing a third of the global premiums ceded in non-life and 53% in life, although cession rates were found to vary considerably by line of business.
For example, cession rates in motor are very low at around 4%, but much high in property (16%), liability (14%), and special lines such as aviation, marine or engineering (over 30%).
Swiss Re believes that the reinsurance sector is better positioned with respect to the some of the major vulnerabilities facing primary insurers.
Due to its relatively low involvement in motor, the reinsurance sector should experience fairly little impact from a reduction in motor premiums which may result from innovations in driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and a transition to self-driving cars.
Similarly, on the life side reinsurers principally cover biometric risk, so are less likely to be affected by the downturn in traditional savings business.