Four hundred years ago, Sweden became the first country in Europe to print banknotes. Now there are fears that it might become the first country to abandon them. Yet, a growing number of Swedes are starting to raise their voices and fight back.
Data from a 2016 Riksbank survey found that 31% of respondents are not comfortable with the current cash decline, compared to 24% only two years earlier (survey data can be downloaded here). This does not mean that respondents are against alternative payment methods. On the contrary; most Swedes own a bank account and use the mobile payment app Swish on a daily basis. But it proves that there is a growing awareness about the risks related to a fully cashless society, particularly for the elderly and the unbanked but also for security reasons.
“I don’t want to have a society where some people can’t participate at all because they’re old-fashioned or if they don’t have the skill or whatever it is”, states Björn Eriksson, former president of Interpol.
Eriksson is the man behind the Kontantupproret, which literally means Cash Uprising. Kontantupproret is a network of companies and organizations, many in rural areas, fighting for the right to maintain cash as a universally accepted payment method.
Kontantupproret supporters are advocating for freedom of choice and for the inclusion of all Swedish consumers in the economy. One of the suggested measures is to get the government to design a policy similar to that of neighboring Norway which requires banks to accept and provide cash.
As stated in the Pulitzer Center’s most recent article on the subject, Eriksson “believes that the upcoming general election in September 2018 could provide a means for citizens angered by the decline in cash to express their feelings and provoke less apathy from politicians”.
Only time will tell which path the Swedish payments landscape will take. But hopefully reason will lead to a more inclusive - rather than exclusive - approach.