Episodes

  • As international trade tensions escalate, the US state of Wisconsin is a fascinating place to discover the consequences. Specialist producers like Wisconsin's ginseng growers are directly affected by the new trade war between the US and China. Traditional cheese makers meanwhile see all this as the latest round in an endless battle for freer trade in global food. And in the south of the state, a new kind of manufacturing economy is taking shape with a vast new investment by the Taiwanese tech manufacturer Foxconn. Jonty Bloom travels around the state to gain rich insights into where today's trade wars could eventually lead.



    Producer: Chris Bowlby

    Editor: Penny Murphy



    Picture: Wisconsin Cheese during Haven House 2007 Oscar Suite

    Credit: Getty Images

  • Do you own a sex toy? And if so, would you admit it to your friends? Increasingly, the answer to both questions is yes. Once a seedy mail-order product advertised in the back pages of porn magazines, sex toys today are marketed as a fun way for couples to enhance their relationships. And in the process, the global sales of these objects of arousal have grown exponentially into the billions of dollars. Laurence Knight explores how this came about, speaking to industry pioneers such as Sam Roddick, Doc Johnson and LoveHoney. And he travels to China, where many of them are manufactured.

    Produced and presented by Laurence Knight.



    Picture credit: Shutterstock

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  • Young Taiwanese entrepreneurs working in a start-up hub are offered attractive sweeteners. But this isn’t in California or even Taipei, it’s on the outskirts of Shanghai. The People’s Republic of China is setting its sights on Taiwan’s youth by encouraging them to relocate to the ‘mainland’. Wages in Taiwan have stagnated as its economic growth has failed to keep pace with that of China, prompting thousands of people to leave the island and head to the mega cities of the People’s Republic for better jobs and access to greater opportunities.

    In February the Chinese government unveiled a package of measures to attract Taiwanese young people and businesses to the mainland, with tax breaks, subsidies, research grants and access to government contracts.

    Taiwan’s current pro-independence government is worried about a potential ‘brain drain’ and there are fears that Beijing, which views Taiwan as a rebel province is using its vast economic clout in a soft power offensive to promote and enhance social and commercial integration between its young peoples.

    Caroline Bayley travels to Shanghai and Taipei to meet young Taiwanese and asks whether Taiwan’s younger generation can be lured in this way by China and whether Taiwan can do anything to stem the exodus.



    Presenter/Producer: Caroline Bayley



    Image: Chinese flags in central Shanghai

    Credit: BBC

  • Life expectancy is going up, pensions are declining. Meanwhile the official retirement age has been abolished, while the age at which you can draw your state pension is rising. As a result, more and more of us will have to work until our 70s, or even our 80s. So, asks David Baker, is this the end of retirement?



    That may not be as bad as it sounds. For In Business, David meets people who could live a quiet, retired life, but choose not to. One founded a bikini company in her 70s, others sell vintage goods, or left organisations to set up on their own. For them, the very word "retirement" is negative, they love what they do, and wouldn't want to give it up.



    Experts say that most of us will need to work into old age. Professor Lynda Gratton tells David that the previous life pattern of education-work-retirement will have to yield to a multi-phase one of different careers, broken up by breaks, even late-life gap years, and re-skilling. Why retire at 60 if you could live to 100?



    The government, too, wants a million more over-50s in the workplace by 2022 - but not all employers are playing ball. Without the prospect of older staff leaving at a fixed retirement age, bosses are making them redundant instead, including by ugly means, and before they can draw a pension. Some companies though do value older people's skills and experience, and even take them on as apprentices. Until more organisations do this, however, it may be up to us to take matters into our own hands and prepare for a long working life.



    Producer: Arlene Gregorius



    Credit: Getty Creative Stock

  • Online banking has grown massively, and some new banks don't bother with a branch network at all. But as Ruth Sunderland discovers, some in the banking business still think high street branches and personal service have a bright future. So how far will this financial revolution go? Talking to leading players in the business, Ruth hears how those who want to manage our money are full of new ideas, but facing huge uncertainty about what banking will become.



    Producer: Chris Bowlby



    Picture Credit: Shutterstock

  • Thousands of new consumer products are launched every year, and most end in failure. These flops are rarely discussed, and quickly forgotten. The Museum of Failure in Sweden is taking a different approach, showcasing some of the world's most flawed products and services. Ruth Alexander talks to curator Samuel West, and some of the product designers, about what we can learn from commercial mistakes.



    Producer: John Murphy



    Image: The 1957 Ford Edsel parked outside the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden Credit: BBC

  • Once known as a hugely successful " Asian Tiger" economy built on hi-tech manufacturing, Taiwan's recent economic growth has been relatively sluggish, wages have stagnated and young people are leaving for better paid jobs in China and elsewhere. So what does the self-ruled island need to do to start roaring again? Caroline Bayley reports from Taipei.



    Producer and Presenter: Caroline Bayley



    Image: Taiwan

    Credit: BBC

  • Can tech entrepreneurs revitalise Southern Italy’s failing economy? Manuela Saragosa visits Naples – which has seen a huge exodus of its talented young people – to explore if a change of direction might be possible. She meets Neapolitans starting up high-tech businesses against the odds and explores why, rather surprisingly, in recent years the city has attracted significant foreign investment from big tech firms. What has been the city’s appeal? She also asks what the business reasons are for building a company in Naples rather than elsewhere. Can the benefits outweigh all the myriad problems?



    Producer: Rosamund Jones

  • In just a couple of years, the fifth generation mobile network will be available. Like previous generations, 5G will offer consumers greater speed and capability when they use their smartphones and tablets. Advocates argue it is more than just the next step in that evolution. Lightning fast speed, greater bandwidth and more reliability have the potential to transform entire industries: from how a surgeon operates on us and the products we use are made, to how we are transported to and from work and home. In this programme, Keith Moore wades through the hype to see how this next step in mobile technology could be used in the real world. He visits London and Brighton in the UK and Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden and meets businesses both large and small who are already preparing for our 5G future.



    Producers: Keith Moore and Smita Patel

    Image: Shutterstock

  • As K-pop and K-drama go global, what are the secrets of their success? The Korean Wave - South Korea’s pop culture exports of music and TV dramas - has already swept across much of Asia, including the giant markets of China and Japan, bringing billions of dollars into the country’s economy every year. Now, with boy band BTS topping the US album charts, and hit dramas reaching streaming services around the world, the wave appears to be growing into a tsunami. How did this medium-sized Asian nation end up as the global entertainment industry’s biggest overachievers?

    Producer: John Murphy

    Presenter: Simon Maybin

  • When you throw away rubbish, it can create an environmental problem – or a business opportunity.



    Your old newspapers, tin cans and plastic bottles are someone else’s valuable harvest. Just like gold, steel, sugar or coffee, rubbish is traded all over the world as a commodity. If it can be recycled, it’s worth money.



    Until recently, countries vied to recycle the waste of others. But now one of the main players - China - says it doesn’t want foreign rubbish anymore. That has sent this multi-billion dollar industry into turmoil and is forcing it to invent new solutions. Ruth Alexander reports.



    Producer: Tony Bonsignore

  • What do digital nomads mean for the world of work?



    A new army of digital nomads is wandering the world. Equipped with a laptop and willing to work anywhere that has Wi-Fi and a low cost of living, they are changing the way millions think about the world of work. But how do firms and Governments adapt to a fast moving, ever changing highly skilled and paid workforce that doesn’t even recognise borders? And do digital nomads represent the future of work or a threat to taxation systems and therefore the nation state? From Portugal to New Zealand via Cornwall, Jonty Bloom goes far and wide looking for answers.



    Presenter: Jonty Bloom

    Producer: Estelle Doyle

    Researcher: Darin Graham

  • Sexual harassment at work has become “normalised” according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.



    A recent UK survey by polling company ComRes found that half of women and a fifth of men have experienced it during their careers.



    From unwanted comments and jokes to inappropriate touching, actions that go beyond office banter seem to have become the norm for many in the workplace.



    As MPs and shareholders start to look at the issue more closely - business reporter Katie Prescott explores how companies are dealing with the growing number of sexual harassment revelations, and how they can prevent it happening in the first place.



    Producer: Charlotte McDonald

  • Ohio is one of the worst hit US states for opioid addiction rates and deaths. Huge numbers of people have dropped out of the workforce and employers say they struggle to recruit the people they need. If automation increases as a result, will unemployment, despair and addiction get even worse? And is drug testing workers part of the solution or part of the problem? Claire Bolderson asks why the opioid epidemic has taken such a hold here and visits companies hoping to develop new medical solutions to treat pain and manage addition. For them, the opioid crisis might just be a very profitable business opportunity.



    Producer: Rosamund Jones

  • Ireland’s economy is hugely interlinked with its next-door neighbour, the UK, in everything from energy to transport to finance. Can those links be kept after the UK leaves the EU, or will Irish business have to change direction?



    Ruth Alexander travels to Ireland to find out how businesses large and small are preparing for Brexit, and what challenges - and opportunities - they see.



    Producer: Chris Bowlby

  • The WTO has facilitated global trade since the 1990s but is now under threat.



    Ever since he was elected, US President Donald Trump has been critical of the World Trade Organisation, which he has described as a “catastrophe”. Also known as the WTO, the organisation was set up to facilitate global trade and act as a referee in trade disputes. Its ultimate objective is to avoid the sort of trade war that can lead to a real war.



    But as the United States and China threaten each other with new tariffs, fears of a trade war are back with the WTO’s own relevance under question. This comes at a crucial time for the United Kingdom, which after Brexit may have to fall back on the rules and regulations of the WTO.



    So could the world survive without the WTO as President Trump suggests? What does the organisation actually do? And how big of a threat is it under? Jonty Bloom goes looking for answers in its long corridors in Geneva.



    (Image: WTO Banner, Credit: Getty Images/Fabrice Coffrini)

  • What happens if you give every adult in a village $22 a month, no strings attached, for 12 years? In rural Kenya, researchers are trying to find out. They're conducting the world's largest study of 'universal basic income' - giving 'free money' to nearly 200 villages, to see whether this could kick-start development and bring people out of poverty. The BBC's Africa correspondent Anne Soy visits western Kenya to meet some of the people involved in this giant economic experiment, and to find out what they make of this unexpected windfall in their lives. How will people spend the money? Will they try to start businesses, or stay in education longer? Or will people stop working, now they have a guaranteed income? What impact will this have on the villages? The BBC intends to return to the same village over the course of the study, to continue to monitor and assess the impact of this 'basic income', and to see what difference it makes to peoples' lives, the choices they make, and the dreams they hold.



    Presenter: Anne Soy

    Producer: Becky Lipscombe



    Photo: Fish Business

    Credit: BBC

  • The vast Minsk Tractor Works in Belarus was famed all over the Soviet Union. And it's still making tractors. Raging capitalism in the 1990s closed down hundreds of state-owned factories. But Belarus kept open this complex providing not only work but cradle to grave care for tens of thousands of Belarusians. Clinics, nurseries and holiday camps formed an industrial megapolis within a city. Despite its huge workforce, original buildings and old technology, the Minsk factory is finding new markets world-wide as well maintaining social provision for its workers. But how is this behemoth coping with the challenges of the 21st century and the changing economic landscape of modern Belarus? We go inside the factory to meet the workers and contrast their world with that of Belarus's newest industries - state of the art IT and video gaming companies.



    Presenter: Lucy Ash

    Producer: Monica Whitlock



    Photo: Workers at Minsk Tractor Works

    Credit: BBC/Monica Whitlock

  • By 2050 the world needs to produce 70% more food and we need to do so using fewer resources and with less damage to the environment. Peter Morgan travels to Skjervoy in Norway to find out how technologically sophisticated fish farming businesses are increasing the availability and lowering the price of the fish we consume and he hears about the environmental issues that pose a serious challenge to the sector's growth. He also discovers how fish farming is providing employment for people in remote coastal communities -from the Norwegian coastline to Grimsby in the North East of England. For centuries Grimsby was a thriving fishing town, but the 'Cod Wars' of the 1970s coupled with EU fishing quotas decimated the livelihoods of many of its inhabitants. In recent years, though, the town has created a multi-billion pound seafood processing industry that is - ironically - fuelled by huge amounts of fish imported from Scandinavian countries. Peter talks to people working in the industry in Grimsby and asks whether the locally based National Aquaculture Centre can help Britain replicate Norway's success in fish farming.



    Presenter: Peter Morgan

    Producer: Ben Carter



    Photo: Peter Morgan and aquaculture worker Jan Børre Johansen visiting a fish farm in a Norwegian fjord off the island of Skjervoy

    Credit: BBC

  • A small German city with a population of under a million has big ambitions. It wants to beat Paris to the top spot of financial centre of Europe. But can the city of Frankfurt attract the international bankers and their support work force when the UK leaves the European Union next year? Several international banks have already confirmed that staff will be moving to Frankfurt. Office space is secured and the international schools say banks are block booking places for pupils. But what will this mean for Frankfurt and its own residents who face soaring rents and property prices? And given a choice would the financial community really choose a regional German city over the French capital? Caroline Bayley heads to Frankfurt to find out…

    Photo: Euro-Monument in Frankfurt

    Credit: BBC