Once a pioneer in cashless transactions, Japan is now lagging behind as the world’s biggest economies increasingly embrace electronic payments — because its ageing population still prefers physical money.
Four out of five purchases are still made with cash in Japan, despite its reputation as a futuristic and innovative nation. In South Korea, some 90 percent of transactions are digital, while Sweden aims to be a cashless society as early as 2023.
But in Japan, where crime and counterfeiting is virtually non-existent so people feel more comfortable carrying cash, consumer response has been sluggish.At a bike repair shop, customers are invited to settle their bills using PayPay — a tie-up between Softbank and Yahoo — using a QR code via their smartphones.
With Japan becoming the first “super-aged” society with more than 28 percent of people 65 or over, it is harder to persuade consumers to take up new technology. This is a serious challenge in a country with more than 2,00,000 ATMs.
It was way back in the 1990s that Japanese firm Denso Wave developed the first QR codes now frequently used in cashless payments, while Sony has offered a chip used on public transport and for payments since the 2000s.
The Japanese government is hoping to seize on a wave of tourists expected to flood in for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to double the amount of electronic payments to 40 percent by 2025.It also plans to introduce a points system to partially reward customers paying by cashless means as a way to mitigate a controversial hike in consumption tax from eight percent to 10 percent from October.