• Reading Level 5
PSHE | Citizenship

Cash use halves in one week over virus fears

Will the virus be the death of cash? Last week, the use of notes and coins in the UK halved due to fears of contamination, and a new banking app was launched – for seven-year-olds. As dusk descends, the tooth fairy emerges for a hard night's work. Darting swiftly from pillow to pillow, she bestows upon every gap-toothed child a few hard-earned coins. But where she once reached for her purse, now she grasps her contactless card. This could soon be the future of childhood. Last week, a new banking app was launched for children as young as seven. British company Revolut says their new Junior accounts, which are overseen by an adult, will help teach children financial skills. Increasingly, the UK is moving towards a cashless society. By the end of the decade, cash may account for just one-in-10 transactions. And in only 15 years, many people think we will have no cash at all. The benefits are obvious - cards and apps, liken Apple Pay, are quicker and more convenient, especially in today's digital world. Indeed, in 2017, debit cards took over cash as the UK's most frequent payment method. And, now, coronavirus could be accelerating the decline. Last week, cash use halved in the UK due to fears it may spread disease. Even before the lockdown, online shopping boomed and many businesses switched to contactless payment only. There are even concerns that cash machines could run out of money if the workers that restock them fall ill. Yet not everyone agrees with the idea of a cashless society. Lobby groups, like the Access to Cash campaign, point to the vulnerable people who rely on cash, such as the elderly and those who live in remote areas. In fact, 1.3 million UK adults do not have a bank account. And a cashless society could be disastrous for the homeless - many of whom depend on donations for survival. Cash makes us poorer and less safe, argues economist Kenneth Rogoff in his book The Curse of Cash. Paper money is propping up the shadow economy, enabling the drug trade, human traffickingThe recruitment, transportation or trade of humans for forced labour or sexual exploitation. , and condemning millions to a life of misery. But others say the demise of cash would mean the death of free society. Using cards and online payment makes it easier for the government to track our spending. These days, it is almost impossible to remain anonymous online. So, will the virus be the death of cash? Chequing out? Yes, say some. The coronavirus reminds us of something we already knew: cash is covered in germs. Cards are not only more convenient, but also more hygienic. And bank accounts for children will come as no surprise to the generation born with a smartphone in hand. Literal pocket money will soon be a thing of the past. After all, in 2018, children in the UK aged between six and 18 earned 4.5bn. Cash is here to stay, say others. Contactless payment may be on the rise, but there are still over 70bn worth of notes in circulation - twice as much in value as a decade ago. Health fears have been blown out of proportion: the virus will live on cash no longer than any other surface. And crucially, many people still rely on paper notes to survive, including the elderly and the vulnerable. KeywordsHuman trafficking - The recruitment, transportation or trade of humans for forced labour or sexual exploitation.

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