The decline of cash in the United Kingdom is reportedly making it harder for homeless people to get spare change. The use of cash has been on a steady decline, having dropped from 62 percent of payments in 2006 to just 40 percent today. By 2026 it is expected to be as low as 21 percent. Indeed, there are predictions cashless societies could emerge in the near future with researchers from the Copenhagen School of Economics predicting that Sweden could become cashless as early as 2023.
Cashless societies complicate economic activity for people in the informal economy without physical addresses or bank accounts, something India has found out during its demonetization campaign. There are a number of schemes in place to try and use cashless payments to encourage more effective giving, although critics say these reduce homeless people’s agency. Homelessness is a growing issue in the UK where the number of rough sleepers has risen for seven years in a row and some charities predict that homelessness in the UK could double by 2041.
Will the roll-out of new technology mean that people living on the margins, like the homeless, will only get left further behind? Can cashless payments be designed in an inclusive way?