In a bid to try and “heal social divisions”, MP’s in the UK have urged major supermarkets to introduce a small charge to customers when using self-checkout machines.
The report was put together by a panel looking at social integration. They have recommended that, in order to try and deal with the problems caused by a lack of social interactions, there should be a charge of 1p to use automated machines in supermarkets.
In addition to this, it could raise millions of pounds, which the panel say could be put towards funding community projects and charities.
One of the report authors, Alex Smith, founder of The Cares Family charity said: “The thinking behind this idea is that some of the technological changes we are seeing sweep through our society may bring major efficiencies and cost savings, but that these can come at the expense of valuable everyday human contact.”
“If this is the case, then it might make sense to see if a fraction of those cost savings can be captured to put back into initiatives that support greater social interaction, in this case greater intergenerational connection. The APPG’s calculations suggest this policy might yield upwards of £20 million per year to strengthen intergenerational projects.”
However, critics argue that it’s unfair to penalise shoppers for using the self-checkouts. Also, they say that it would effectively be a tax for using the supermarket and that the government should find other ways to fund local projects and offer social support.
Despite this, it has had a lot of support, especially since, as noted in the paper, self-checkouts have had a negative impact on human relationships and many groups have suffered.
For instance, many elderly people struggle to use the machines, and therefore have been discouraged from using supermarkets at all. The charge could encourage more shoppers to use manned checkouts, and supermarkets would then keep more open.
The report added, “It is imperative that we act now to foster stronger ties between different age groups, given the political and social challenges that the UK faces. Brexit has demonstrated the need to strengthen ties between different generations so that we can face big national challenges together rather than apart.”
“And with an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the high levels of loneliness experienced by people of all ages in the UK, building meaningful connections across generations should be seen as vital for the wellbeing of all of us.”