Two thirds of Europeans believe cash is dirty – but struggle to break the bad habit with only one in five washing their hands after holding it
Research released by MasterCard has shown that despite believing handling cash, bank notes or coins to be unhygienic and dirty, only one in five wash their hands after holding it. The European wide study of over 9,000 consumers from 12 countries highlighted how despite being ranked as more unhygienic than hand rails on public transport or communal food, such as nuts in a bar, Europeans are struggling to break the bad habit of spending dirty cash.
Three quarters of all Europeans surveyed as part of the study, agreed they should be cautious when it comes to handling cash, due to the germs it may contain. However, findings showed that we are more likely to wash our hands after completing other tasks such as touching an animal (46%) or travelling on public transport (36%).
Initial research carried out by MasterCard and Oxford University in 2013 highlighted that the average European bank note contained 26,000 bacteria which could be potentially harmful to our health. Whilst respondents in the recent 2014 survey recognised the potential health hazards associated with handling cash, there was a significant “say-do” gap across Europe of people believing cash is dirty and actually doing something about it. Those in Hungary and France had the highest ‘Say-Do’ gap indicating the difference between their belief that cash is dirty and the likelihood of washing their hands after dealing with it.
Commenting on our reluctance to break the habit of spending cash, psychologist Donna Dawson highlighted; “Money” in the form of tangible banknotes and coins is the biggest form of visible economic power and of individual success that we have; it is therefore hard for people to make and keep any negative associations with money. The reason for the often large gap in the survey between what we say and what we do is a lack of “connection”: we may recognise that money collects germs, but we do not connect disease or illness to the handling of money.
“It is similar to worrying about the germs in the air we breathe, we can’t see them and therefore we have no control over them. The idea of being able to exercise control in life is a hugely motivating factor for human beings. However, a sense of control is often an illusion – there is much we can’t control, such as the germs we cannot see. 40% of those polled recognised they had no control over who handled their money beforehand and as a consequence, many of us try not to think about the things we can’t control, with 38% claiming to never thinking about it. The facts about dirty money will worry us for a while, but this worry will quickly sink down the list of ‘worry priorities’ to a much lower point – it really is a case of out of sight, out of mind.”
Additional findings from the MasterCard research highlighted how almost four in ten (37%) Europeans claim they would be willing to make at least one small change in their everyday life in order to be more hygienic, with the majority stating they would prefer to use a card or contactless payment over cash in order to be more hygienic.
Dr Jim O’Mahony, lecturer in Biological Sciences at The Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland commented; “The association of money and hygiene has long been established. From a historical perspective there have even been reports that villagers believed money was somehow responsible for plague epidemics in England, with villagers leaving money in water troughs filled with vinegar in order to decontaminate it. Scientifically, there have been many studies in recent years which have proven beyond doubt that bank notes and coins carry bacteria and other microbes. The majority of people acknowledge that handling cash could be perceived as being hazardous yet on a practical basis people are disinclined to adopt basic hygiene practices.
“As previous studies have shown the average European banknote contains 26,000 bacterial colonies. With this in mind there should be an increased awareness that handling cash could be seen as a potentially hazardous practice in line with other precarious activities such as touching toilet door handles, handling communal food and holding escalator rails. Whilst there are no firmly adopted international guidelines on the use of handling cash during seasonal flu and winter vomiting outbreaks, it would be advisable to become more hygiene aware, especially during these times, by switching to cashless transactions.”
Chris Kangas, Head of Contactless Payments for MasterCard Europe added; “What is most evident from the findings of this year’s study is that despite being aware of the hygienic pitfalls of cash, Europeans are struggling to break the bad habit of spending it. Utilizing contactless payment methods are not only an innovative way to pay but also help to eliminate some of the bacteria and germs we know are transmitted when handling and spending notes or coins.”
Research conducted by Toluna on behalf of MasterCard, March – April 2014
Scientific research conducted by Oxford University on behalf of MasterCard, March 2013
Gabriel EM, Coffey A, O’Mahony JM. Investigation into the prevalence, persistence and antibiotic resistance profiles of staphylococci isolated from euro currency. J Appl Microbiol. 2013 Aug; 115(2):565-71
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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