At the beginning of 2020, we were already living in a world becoming increasingly digital and global. The gig economy was booming, giving people the option to work online on international jobs. This was driving digital banking, including online payments and international money transfers, as well as the rise of cryptocurrency.
A year later, freelancers the world over have been struggling and international travel has been put on hold, but the digitisation and globalisation of money has flourished. This is in a large part due to the effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19, with both its direct and indirect consequences, has changed the way we look at currency. Here is how.
Let’s be honest. The writing has been on the wall for cash for a long time. However, having been the primary form of currency for so long, it was taking ages to actually see itself out. The pandemic has hastened that.
This is, of course, in part due to the increase in online shopping. The pandemic has kept us inside to avoid people who could potentially give us the virus. Cash is useless when you are trying to make online purchases. Some companies allow for cash-on-delivery payments, but this is increasingly rare.
There is another big reason that COVID-19 has put our society off the use of cash. None of us doubted that cash was not ideal for hygiene. However, with an increased awareness of the spread of germs from person to person, cash became a symbol of the exact type of risky item.
Now, even when you go into a store, you are more likely to choose contactless options than reach into your wallet for cash.
There has been much talk over whether the pandemic signals the end of offices as we know them. From what we’ve seen, it looks like that reality is still far off. Certain industries simply rely on office work, while others are not quite ready to make a complete break from the office block.
However, COVID-19 has certainly not been good for the owners of office blocks. Companies that are reluctant to leave offices entirely are still realising that certain categories of staff can work perfectly well remotely. They have learnt that it is possible, even if they are not yet prepared to make such drastic changes.
The gig economy famously gave people the opportunity to become digital nomads, working while travelling the world. While such travel is impossible right now, there have been many people working from in front of a screen across the world. These are people who went back home to be with vulnerable family. Foreign workers who were visiting home when borders were closed.
There are even people who have chosen to work from another country altogether, seeing the pandemic out while enjoying a change of scenery.
This has led to an increased need for online international transfers. As many gig workers know, transferring your money internationally through outdated means can put a big dent in your earnings. Modern international money transfer companies make the process both easy and affordable.
Cryptocurrency can also be used for this purpose. Since it is by its very nature a global currency, you do not lose money if you are paid in cryptocurrency from a different country.
The pandemic has been hard on all types of workers, but freelancers have faced a particular kind of crisis. Governments across the world still have not adapted outdated regulations to work in a gig economy. In keeping with this, stimulus packages have failed to properly address the needs of freelancers.
Nonetheless, more people are choosing the avenue of freelance work. This is no longer out of a desire for a different kind of working life but because of the millions of jobs lost due to the economic chaos. Since there are few new jobs available, people have increasingly had to take control of their own careers.
The long-term consequences of this are yet to be seen. It is possible that the gig economy will hemorrhage workers when traditional jobs are available again. However, it does mean that more people have had to find digital money transfer solutions.
Another experience that has become more common during the pandemic is the need to send help to relatives across the world. Migrant workers have been sending money back to poor countries for as long as it has been possible. Now, with people struggling in some of the wealthiest countries, relatives who have been left relatively unscathed have had to take on some of the financial burden.
Sending money across the world to your relatives has become easy and cheap precisely because of migrant workers. This kind of digital money transfer is only becoming more common now that previously advantaged people are now struggling to cope.
It remains to be seen whether the move towards digital currency will slow once the pandemic is over. However, many of the changes made have been long in coming and, regardless of what comes next, we will not be moving backwards.