THE country’s life insurance sector is expected to record double-digit growth in 2018, with its fourth-quarter performance seen to mirror its year-ago showing, according to the chief of the Philippine Life Insurance Association Inc. (PLIA).

During a PLIA event in Makati City on Thursday, PLIA President Olaf Kliesow estimated that gross insurance premiums grew by 16.75 percent to P236.73 billion last year from P202.77 billion in 2017.

This would be achieved if it would record 7-percent growth for October-to-December, which was the figure posted in the same period in 2017, he explained.

“I think the fourth quarter was a good quarter, but I cannot tell until the [official figures are out],” he told reporters, saying he felt positive that double-digit would be achieved.

According to him, the positive outlook proves that the growing middle-class could afford insurance.

“More and more people are becoming aware of the need to be insured,” Kliesow said.

The sector reported premiums worth P174.15 billion in the third quarter, a 20.4-percent increase from P144.63 billion in the same period in 2017. This accounted for almost 80 percent of total premiums.

The 16.75-percent figure, the PLIA chief said, “should be enough to close that gap of 0.02 percent to achieve the highest insurance penetration in the country.”

As of July-to-September, the country’s insurance penetration rate stood at 1.76 percent, compared with 1.78 percent in 2013.

For 2019, Kliesow expects the industry to also post double-digit growth, citing the positive economic outlook offered by First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC).

In its forecast of the year, FMIC said gross domestic products growth would range from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent and inflation would settle at 3-3.5 percent.