Author: Geraldine Henrich-Koenis Jessica Dabrowski

First-of-its-kind extreme heat microinsurance launched in India to protect women workers

Source(s): Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center
Three Indian female textile workers standing together in solidarity at factory
IndianFaces/Shutterstock

Marking SEWA’s 50th anniversary, Arsht-Rock announces co-creation of the new Extreme Heat Income Insurance, a climate resilience tool to replace income lost to climate-driven extreme heat for women in the informal sector

Together with more than 500 women workers in the informal sector, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), in partnership with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a 50-year-old Indian trade union with 2.5 million women members, and Blue Marble, an Impact Insurtech that creates socially meaningful, commercially viable insurance protection for the underserved, announced the Extreme Heat Income Insurance, a new, parametric insurance to help women in India recover wages lost due to climate-driven extreme heat events.

The Extreme Heat Income Insurance is the first investment in Arsht-Rock’s Cool Capital Stack, and the first commitment in the Global Climate Resilience Fund for Women, also announced yesterday by Reema Nanavaty, SEWA’s Director, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—a longstanding partner to SEWA and global champion for women and girls.

“Women are profoundly and disproportionately impacted by climate change, particularly extreme heat, which claims more lives than any other climate hazard and is wreaking havoc on the lives of poor women,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of Arsht-Rock. “In India’s informal sector, women labor for prolonged periods of time in dangerously hot conditions which leads to preventable pain and suffering, ranging from lingering rashes, to infections, burns, and chronic heart and kidney disease. The Extreme Heat Income Insurance will ensure that these women don’t have to choose between protecting their health or their family’s financial security.”

In India’s informal sector, women labor for prolonged periods of time in dangerously hot conditions which leads to preventable pain and suffering, ranging from lingering rashes, to infections, burns, and chronic heart and kidney disease. The Extreme Heat Income Insurance will ensure that these women don’t have to choose between protecting their health or their family’s financial security.
- Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of Arsht-Rock

The Extreme Heat Income Insurance—inspired by a predictive health impact algorithm created by Arsht-Rock’s Heat Health Science Panel and practitioners at Blue Marble—is activated when specific extreme heat conditions that are expected to result in negative health outcomes are met. At this point, a payment to SEWA members’ bank accounts is generated to compensate for projected lost income due to unsafe working conditions created by extreme heat. 

The parametric tool is designed to pay out multiple times in one heat season to replace income—currently estimated at $3 per day—when the heat event occurs. In the pilot phase, the premium will be paid by the program, not by the women participants, with a local insurer offering the cover.

The purpose of the microinsurance product is to protect the health and livelihoods of heat-exposed women in the informal sector in India, which accounts for 93% of the country’s labor force. Beginning in April 2023 as the hottest season and frequent heat waves begins to arrive in India, Arsht-Rock, SEWA, and Blue Marble will target 21,000 SEWA members in Ahmedabad across a variety of occupations—from salt pan miners, waste recyclers, and head loaders, street vendors to farmers, ship breakers, construction, and home-based workers—to participate in phase one. Based on learnings from the pilot, the goal is to quickly scale to the entire 2.5 million SEWA member community spanning 18 states and beyond, in future heat seasons.

As noted by Subhanben, a salt pan worker and SEWA member, “climate shocks directly reduce our working hours and incomes to half. Sometimes even more. Food turns rancid or dry. Women are the worst sufferers.”
“Unless the livelihoods of millions of poor women workers like Subhanben are stabilised, no social protection measures become effective. Therefore, our partnership with Arsht-Rock to launch the Extreme Heat Income Insurance for SEWA members and the Climate Resilience Fund for women represent critical action on climate,” said Reema Nanavaty, director of SEWA.
“I’m pleased that the Clinton Global Initiative will help to support the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center and partners as they move quickly to implement creative solutions for SEWA members to safeguard their health and income from climate-driven extreme heat,” said former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Extreme heat threatens to claw back hard-won gains achieved by the 2.5 million women of SEWA which is why I’m thrilled to see the Extreme Heat Income Insurance launched as a first commitment to SEWA’s newly announced Climate Resilience Fund for Women.”
“Climate change poses a singular threat to humanity, and adaptation is key to our survival,” said Deepali Khanna, Vice President, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation. “It is one of the biggest challenges in reducing poverty around the world and investing in women is pivotal to unlocking a new era of inclusive economic growth. We are excited to support the Extreme Heat Income Insurance initiative led by Arsht-Rock with SEWA and Blue Marble, as a part of the newly announced Global Climate Resilience Fund for Women and our previously announced commitment to advance gender equity.”

Arsht-Rock is committing scientific and technical expertise, strategic communications, metrics, and evaluation, and $500,000 to cover the premium and design of the product, while also serving as the lead convener of extreme heat and health risk experts and scientists to advise on the project’s design. Critically, Arsht-Rock will also function as the primary fundraiser to source and attract additional capital required to scale to SEWA’s 2.5 million members. SEWA will facilitate access to program participants and conduct community research in the design phase to better understand the needs of its members, collect program and impact data, and provide guidance on geographic and population selection for the pilot and subsequent expansion. Blue Marble will design and monitor the product, including the identification of women’s insurance needs, perform risk analysis and modeling for each subsegment and geography, identify risk carrier(s) to underwrite the policies, and manage the product’s evolution.

“This is a ground-breaking innovation to address the life-threatening impact of extreme heat for women workers of India.” said Sarah Ebrahimi, Head of Institutional Partnerships and Personal Insurance at Blue Marble. “We are proud to be developing this solution with Arsht-Rock and SEWA to create a vital safety net for women workers and their families.”

To complement the income replacement payout, Arsht-Rock, SEWA, and Blue Marble are exploring the addition of personal accident, maternity care, and disability products over time, intended to improve health and build more secure household finances, in addition to an early warning mechanism and trainings based on forecasted heat conditions on the health of participants. These additional covers will be informed by market research during the product design phase. Arsht-Rock, SEWA, and Blue Marble will also explore sourcing new heat-resilient tools to protect women workers from heat’s effects, like heat-resistant hand tools, gloves, and other practical fixes to reduce pain and injury.

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