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Surprising Science

Will Sweden Be the First Cashless Society?

Cash and coins account for only three percent of the Swedish economy, about half that of the US and Britain. Some predict that cash will disappear from Sweden in as little as 20 years. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Sweden has been more aggressive than most countries when it comes to replacing cash and coins with electronic transfers, using mobile phones and credit cards to connect its citizens to the money grid. In fact, paper bills and coins represent just three percent of the Swedish economy, compared to nine percent in Europe and seven percent in the US. From public transportation to places of worship, Sweden’s high-tech society is quickly replacing the cash system with more modern ways of moving money. Advocates who represent pensioners, however, say the change should be more gradual. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Besides the novelty of adopting cashless technology, less cash on the street has meant fewer crimes for Sweden. “The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011—the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.” Government officials say it also forces underground economies into the light. Some vendors, however, accuse the government of colluding with big banks, which receive a service fee for credit card use. Others say a cashless society risks further identity fraud. 

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