Payments in Sweden 2019

Cash use in constant decline

Download PDF

Developments in Sweden differ from those in other countries

Published: 7 November 2019

The amount of cash in circulation in Sweden has halved since 2007. This trend is unique to Sweden, even though Norway is also on a low level. In contrast, cash volumes are increasing in most other countries. A simple way of comparing cash volumes in different countries is to set them in relation to the size of the economy (gross domestic product, GDP). In Sweden and Norway, the ratio of cash to GDP has been falling and is now significantly lower than in other countries. Since January 2018, the volume of cash has increased slightly in Sweden, which is probably largely due to households starting to withdraw cash again after the completion of the banknote and coin changeover. Over time, we see that the volume of banknotes and coins circulating in society is declining.

In many other countries, however, cash volumes in relation to GDP have risen since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, as the demand for cash is increasingly more rapidly than the economic growth rate. This may have to do with a desire to move some savings from the banking system in times when it is perceived to be uncertain. In certain cases, it may be a question of savings or of people using cash outside the country that issues the currency. Some currencies, such as the dollar and the euro, are often considered as safe investments around the world. In other words, the fact that cash volumes in these currencies are increasing more rapidly than the countries’ GDP may have many different causes.

Figure: In Norway and Sweden, cash volumes are falling. In other countries, they are growing

In Norway and Sweden, cash volumes are falling. In other countries, they are growing. The figure shows that the ratio of cash to GDP has shown a falling trend and is very low in Sweden and Norway, where it corresponds to one per cent of GDP. The cash ratio is significantly higher in other countries. In the euro area, for example, it amounts to almost 10 per cent of GDP. (Click on the explanations under the diagram to show or hide one or more series.) Sources: BIS and ECB.