The UK government announced on 1st April, that the minimum wage for those over 23 years of age is rising to £9.50 per hour. This affects 2.5 million people and implies that those people working a 35 hour week would see an increase, annually, of around £1000. The sad thing is, that there was also a cut of £20 per week to universal credit, on the same day, which as a result meant 5.5 million people would be more than £1000 worse off. Sadly, it seems that legally, anyone under 18 years of age can be paid as little as £4.30 per hour and that same amount is applied for anyone who is an apprentice.

The government very helpfully state “The new National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates are both statutory minimums, and businesses are encouraged to pay workers above these, whenever they can afford to do so. Recent studies show significant benefits for employers who pay their staff higher wages, which includes higher job retention and staff productivity.”

Once you have got your earnings, how do you spend it? I don’t mean as in what you buy, but what method of payment. Government research released at the end of April 2022 suggests that in recent years, cash is used less often for payment, while the use of digital methods (primarily debit cards) has risen dramatically. The pandemic, of course, changed the way we purchase, and research shows that just 17% of all payments made in 2020 were by cash, whereas it was 45% a few years before.

Their findings also show, that 5% of the UK mainland population, now live more than 2km away from a bank, building society, post office or ATM, where cash can be accessed. In Northern Ireland 17% of the population live further than 2km.

From the 1990’s, bank branches have been decreasing throughout the UK and are down to 34% of the total they were in 2012. It is unusual in the UK, if a shop does not offer to take payment by debit or credit cards, however in mainland Europe, cash is still the most popular method of payment. This is perhaps because the infrastructure isn’t as far forward; indeed one of the comments made by a person living in rural Spain, said the local shop didn’t have mains electricity, let alone a mobile signal, so a credit card machine would never work.

Cash machines will be around for some time to come, as last month the government research library, published  an article titled – “The future of local banking services and access to cash” – in which they state that their report “found that older people; those on a lower income; and people with certain physical and mental health problems, are particularly likely to be affected if society went cashless.”