Organized Panel Session
By its very nature, war adds to a population’s mortality risk. From the life insurance industry’s inception in the late 19th century, contracts had allowed firms to assess surcharges or cancel contracts for customers who joined the military. While companies had taken advantage of these clauses in earlier wars, it was deemed unpatriotic and thus politically problematic to assess these same penalties during the Asia-Pacific War. The problem of risk assessment during wartime, nevertheless, remained.
Although mostly comprised of for-profit companies, the life insurance industry was also important to the state. Life insurance played an important ideological function by extending the promise of security to soldiers and workers and also helped to channel economic resources towards the war effort. In order to ensure the industry’s continued existence, the state established Wartime Death and Injury Insurance in 1943. This system established different payments for people working in vital industries in mainland Japan as well as soldiers directly engaged in fighting. Through the intellectual technology of insurance, the state wanted to shoulder some of the risk of death faced by soldiers and workers and this policy was one of the few types of compensation given directly to civilians during the wartime period. The state would then extend this policy in 1944, when it sold insurance to private companies to help cover the excess risk caused by the war. In this paper, I look at how insurance helped to manage insecurity and instill a belief in a prosperous national future.