A recent study by global insurer Swiss Re sheds some light on a grim subject: the massive shortfall between insured property and actual damage in the world’s three largest economies and beyond.

Swiss Re’s recent sigma study shows that although claims payments for natural catastrophe risks have increased significantly over the past 40 years, property in the US, Japan and China is woefully underinsured against actual damages.

The problem has accelerated over the last ten years. While natural disasters caused a cumulative total damage to global property of $1.8 billion in that time, insurance covered only 30 percent of those losses—generating an estimated $1.3 trillion shortfall.

Earthquake risk comprises most of the gap in the US and Japan, while flood risk comprises nearly half of the expected uninsured losses in China, the study finds.

The situation is even more dire in emerging markets, where an average of 80 to 100 percent of economic losses are uninsured against the three main natural catastrophe perils of earthquake, flood and windstorm.

The study also examined the impact of general property risks—the sort that strikes the average US homeowner all the time, such as fire, water damage and burglary. The study finds that the US is better prepared for these risks than many high-growth economies, where a rapidly expanding middle class is accumulating new wealth.

This underestimation of risk results in an estimated general property risk protection gap of $68 billion worldwide, with much of that in high-growth economies, according to the study’s modeling projections.

Next week I’ll look deeper into this study and discuss the implications for the US insurance industry.

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