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In the Balance


The biggest financial stories and why they matter to us all.


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The biggest financial stories and why they matter to us all.




Brexit, trade and Trump

What are the political and economic factors to watch in 2020? Will the trade wars continue, will Brexit get done and who will be the next US president? Ed Butler is joined by economists Professor Meredith Crowley, Reader in International Economics, University of Cambridge; Guntram Wolff, Director of Bruegel, an economic think tank and Professor Raghuram Rajan of Chicago Booth School of Business to discuss how the events of 2019 will influence the coming year and give us their forecasts for trends to look out for in 2020. (Image: 2020 US election badges; image credit: Getty Images)


Mental health at work

What is best practice for employers dealing with mental health problems at work? The World Health Organisation estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy about one trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. About half of all workers suffer from poor mental health but few of us talk to our employers about it. So how can an employer support someone going through a crisis, and does the workplace have a role in breaking down the stigma around mental health? Manuela Saragosa tries to answer some of these questions with guests, Professor Sally Maitlis of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Mary Daniels entrepreneur, author and coach; and Nicky Young, managing director at MullenLowe salt. (Image: Graphic image of man with head on desk; Image credit: Getty Images)


Boardroom quotas for women

Are mandatory quotas desirable or necessary to ensure more diversity in our company boardrooms? The Netherlands has just passed a law obliging listed companies to have 30% of their non-executive boards made up of women and California has till the end of the year to ensure at least one woman is on the board of its public companies. But that law is being challenged, and quotas elsewhere have had mixed success. So why bother? Manuela Saragosa and guests Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, founder and president of WISER Policy, attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation Anastasia Boden, Tamara Box, managing partner at Reed Smith and founding member of the 30% Club and former EU digital commissioner Neelie Kroes discuss the pros and cons of mandatory quotas for female equality in the corporate world. (Image: three business women: Image credit: Getty Images)


Regulating political chatter

Can we trust the political adverts in our news feeds? Who is sending them, why are we being targeted and are they even true? This week we're looking at the thorny issue of political advertising on social media. Is regulation needed to ensure fair and trustworthy election campaigns or would restrictions endanger free speech and limit voter choice? Ed Butler is joined by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent, data rights lawyer Ravi Naik, Lisa-Maria Neudert, doctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and Michael Duncan partner and digital media lead at Cavalry, an issue management firm in Washington DC. (Image: Man looking at phone on a bus. Image credit: Getty Images)


Divestment and climate change

Divestment has become a rallying call by environmental campaigners in the fight against climate change. It's when environmentally aware investors put pressure on their fund managers, employers and governments to move money away from polluting industries. An estimated $11 trillion have been divested from fossil fuel stocks since the 2015 Paris climate summit, but has that divestment made a difference? With emissions continuing to soar, wouldn't it be better just to tax energy companies more? Others argue that investors should put money into innvovative technologies that help solve climate change. Justin Rowlatt discusses these issues and more with guests Mark Lewis, Global Head of Sustainability, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Ahmed Mokgopo, Campaigner, and Gayle Peterson, Associate Fellow, Said Business School, Oxford. (Image: Climate change protest bannners. Image credit: Getty Images)


When to retire

At a time when we’re living longer, healthier lives should we do away with the notion of retirement and just keep on working? Are the skills of older people adequate, and are they even wanted in a youth-obsessed society? Ed Butler will be discussing the financial drivers behind working longer, the social benefits of being actively employed and the choices that governments, employers and individuals need to make to prepare for older age. Our guests this week are Samuel Engblom, Policy director at The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees from Stockholm, Margaret Heffernan, executive coach and author in London and Steve Vernon, author and Research Scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, California. Plus, we take a visit to The Common Room, a new concept in intergenerational thinking. (Image: Older woman selling flower bouquet. Image credit: Getty)


Kilkenomics – is Europe broken?

The EU has a new parliament, new leadership, but the same old problems; Brexit, political populism and an economic slowdown. How will it stand up to the test? In the Balance comes from the 'Kilkenomics' festival of economics and comedy in Ireland, in front of a live audience of festival-goers. Rory Cellan-Jones is joined by a panel of top Irish, European and American economists in Cleere's pub in Kilkenny, along with comedian Colm O’Regan who is reflecting on how small countries cope as part of a big bloc like the EU. Guests: Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Brussels correspondent for the New York Times, David McWilliams academic and economist and co-founder of Kilkenomics, Bill Black, lawyer, author and associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. And In the Balance regular contributor, comedian Colm O'Regan. Producer: Audrey Tinline Studio Manager: Robert Symington (Image: John Cleere pub exterior, Kilkenny. Image credit: BBC)


Outsmarting AI

Some of the world’s top thinkers on artificial intelligence discuss the threats intelligent machines might pose to humans. With Turkey claiming it may be able to launch autonomous killer drones in the near future, is it time we all thought a bit harder about how we want this cutting edge technology to be deployed? Ed Butler and guests discuss artificial intelligence, from military hardware, to online advertising and insurance. Ed is joined by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at Southampton University and Co-chair of the UK Government's review on Artificial Intelligence; Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University. And Jaan Tallinn, one of the founders of the technology firm Skype and now co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University. (Picture: Robotic Androids Taking Charge Of Running A Futuristic City. Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


Starting from scratch

What's the best strategy for starting a business from nothing? What if you have to start over - either in a new country or because of a business failure or setback in life? We hear from a Syrian refugee who started her cheese making business from the ground up and from South Africa we are joined by the managing director of an organisation advising small scale entrepreneurs who are doing business in tough conditions. Also in the programme, Ed Butler is joined by a venture capital funder who invests in tech start-ups and we'll hear from the leader of Britain's top foundation for boosting entrepreneurship, who says it takes a special type of person to start up a business from scratch. Contributors: Razan Alsous, founder of Yorkshire Dama Cheese Neeta Patel, CEO at the Centre for Entrepreneurs; Entrepreneur-Mentor at London Business School Wybrand Ganzevoort, managing director at Collective Value Creation George Davies, partner at Hambro Perks (Picture; A rocket taking off. Credit: Getty Creative)


Does the office have a future?

Thanks to technology, these days it’s possible to work almost anywhere. You can log on from your kitchen table, in a trendy café or even on the beach. So what’s the point of the noisy, crowded office? Perhaps it’s time we ditched the daily commute and found better places, and better ways, to get the job done. Manuela Saragosa has been discussing, with her three guests, just what kind of spaces we’ll be working in in future, and whether the office has some redeeming features after all. Contributors: Kay Sargent, director of workplace at architectural firm HOK Iwo Szapar, remote work advocate & CEO at Remote-how Stephen Wood, a specialist in workplace psychology and professor of management at the University of Leicester (Picture:Office worker. Getty Images.)


How China Curbs Online Gaming

Online gaming and e-sports are huge industries, but there are concerns about over-use and addiction and the way gaming takes up the time of young people. China is forcing some of its biggest games companies to put restrictions on the number of hours a day under 18s can play. But do such curbs make any difference, both to the young gamers and to the gaming business itself? Rory Cellan-Jones hears from a gaming expert and former professional e-sports player, a former online gaming addict and an expert in China's gaming industry. (Photo:Visitors uses console at the Cyber Games Arena (CGA) eSports venue in the Mongkok district of Kowloon in Hong Kong. January 2019.. Credit: Getty Images)


Brexit: Planning in Uncertain Times

The UK parliament has rejected the Brexit deal struck between the government and the European Union. As the clock ticks to the deadline for the UK to leave the EU at the end of March, In the Balance hears how businesses are planning in times of deep uncertainty. Ed Butler asks business people in the EU and in the UK how they will manage to continue to export and import goods between the UK and the European Union if there is no deal after March 29? And Ed hears from a former senior UK civil servant on the risks ahead for trade - and what would be the best way out of the Brexit impasse?


Money and Me

Ask yourself honestly, how closely have you examined your emotional relationship with money? Or is it all a bit too awkward? Financial psychology - a relatively new discipline borne out of the USA - says we should all be doing exactly that. It joins the dots between psychology and financial planning, via behavioural economics and says it can help people understand their true relationship with money. Always in debt, but have a good salary? Ever wondered why your wealthy relative is so mean? Financial psychology might have the answer. Manuela Saragosa unravels some of these riddles with two experts: Brad Klontz, founder of the Financial Psychology Institute and Meghaan Lurtz, incoming president of the Financial Therapy Association. (Picture: Heads made of dollar bills, Credit: Getty Images)


India's Fight Against Sexual Harassment

In 2013, India passed an Act to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace. Five years on, has it had any meaningful impact and where does that leave men and those from the LGBTQ community? In a special edition from Delhi, Divya Arya asks how workplaces in India are tackling the problem and whether the #MeToo movement has made sexual harassment less taboo. She is joined by Anita Cheria, president of labour rights organisation CIVIDEP, diversity consultant Arti Chaudhry and Harish Iyer an equality champion at NeoNiche Integrated Solutions. (Picture: Indian activists shout slogans outside a police station in Mumbai. Credit: Getty Images)


The Brexit Waiting Game

It's been another week of turmoil in British Brexit politics, but what is the view from the rest of Europe? Is the EU any better organised than the British government and what do they think is actually going to happen? Jonty Bloom takes a Europe-wide view of Brexit and the preparations already underway. He is joined by: Vicky Pryce, chief economic adviser at the Centre for Economics and Business Research; Melle Garshagen, UK and Ireland correspondent for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad; and Ilja Nothnagel of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. (Picture: Englishman standing on the beach, overlooking the sea; Credit: Getty Images)


The Juggle

How do you juggle the demands of a job and a family? Is there a stress-free and guilt-free way of giving adequate attention to your children and your career? We discuss the daily challenges facing millions of parents all over the world, including the often frantic morning rush, the career opportunities that pass you by, and the difficulty of maintaining a social life. And in this, the last episode of the series, we have three presenters instead of one - Susannah Streeter and Nkem Ifejika join fellow working parent Manuela Saragosa to share some tips. They're joined by Clare Streets, from Birmingham in the UK, who has recently rejoined the world of work after seven years spent raising a family. (Picture: A woman multi-tasking. Credit: Getty Images)


The Price of Pills

Drug firms are coming under fire from the US, Europe and China over the cost of some of their products. But is it simply the price we have to pay if we want Big Pharma to keep producing life-saving medicines? President Trump has vowed to drive down drug prices "substantially" - we hear why a lack of haggling means the latest patented pills typically cost more in the US than almost anywhere else in the world. We hear from Big Pharma itself - an industry figure tells us high prices reflect the years of research and development that go into new drugs and that, in time, competition does make them cheaper. Plus, does size matter when brokering better deals with the pharmaceutical firms, and in lower income countries what are the other factors pushing up prices? Contributors: Patricia Danzon, professor of health care management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations; and Kalipso Chalkidou, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development. (Picture: Pills on a US dollar bill. Credit: Getty Images)


The Lehman Legacy

In this special edition we hear personal stories from the Great Recession and ask who has paid the highest price. From mortgage defaults and job losses to stagnant wages, we find out how hard the last 10 years have been for many individuals and families, and ask what legacy the financial crisis has left. Plus, where might the next crash come from, and are we any better prepared to withstand it? Manuela Saragosa leads the discussion with a panel of experts: Adam Tooze, professor of history at Columbia University and author of Crashed: How a Decade of Global Financial crises Changed the World; Pablo Bustinduy, a member of parliament in the Spanish anti-austerity political party Podemos; and Scott Winship, a poverty and inequality researcher, formerly of the Brookings Institution and now directing the Social Capital Project within the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress. Image: Boarded-up windows on a foreclosed home (Credit: Getty Images)


Planning to Fail

Why are most of us so bad at planning for the future? Whether saving for our retirement, managing workloads and deadlines, or budgeting for a major infrastructure project, we humans often fail miserably. Is it because we're incompetent, even irresponsible? Or is there something psychological getting in the way? We explore some of the most common planning pitfalls, from Olympic Games that go way over budget to short-term corporate incentives, and ask how individuals and businesses can avoid them. Contributors: Peter Ayton, professor of psychology at City, University of London; Bent Flyvbjerg, Chair of Major Programme Management at the University of Oxford; and Sarah Williamson, CEO of FCLT Global. (Picture: A woman looking out over the Grand Canyon. Credit: Getty Images)



Would you sign a divorce contract before you got married? Should you? They’re often seen as unnecessary, unromantic, and irreligious, but we hear how prenuptial agreements are on the rise, and not just among the super-rich. We speak to a newly-wed who signed a prenup with her now husband to protect her business interests. One of the UK’s top divorce lawyers tells us they are often better than the default divorce provisions laid out by governments. And a lawyer in Nigeria explains how she’s trying to use them to protect women’s rights. But prenups are not without pitfalls – we also hear how they can be coercive, unfair, and even destroy a marriage before it’s begun. Contributors: Ayesha Vardag, founder and president of London law firm Vardags; Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial, a book and website about personal finance; Laurie Israel from Israel, Van Kooy & Days law in Brookline, Massachusetts, and author of The Generous Prenup; Lesley Agams, founder and partner at Demeters Solicitors & Advocates in Abuja, Nigeria, and blogger on women's issues. (Picture: Models of a bride and groom on a wedding cake. Credit: Getty Images)