Data points

Published May 9, 2022
Aerial view of a combine harvester harvesting a soy field in Lobos, some 100 km west of Buenos Aires. Argentina’s good soybean and grain harvest this year is a breath of optimism in the face of the global grain shortage brought on by the war in Ukraine.—AFP
Aerial view of a combine harvester harvesting a soy field in Lobos, some 100 km west of Buenos Aires. Argentina’s good soybean and grain harvest this year is a breath of optimism in the face of the global grain shortage brought on by the war in Ukraine.—AFP

Selling organs to live

Afghans are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which has accelerated since the Taliban ousted the US-backed government and the subsequent economic collapse. For those willing, an illegal but barely hidden business in the western city of Herat offers a reprieve from the downward spiral. Two hospitals in town offer kidney transplants that attract Afghans from across the country, performing 15-20 surgeries a month. Officials turn a blind eye. Buying and selling organs is illegal, as in most other countries. But scores of Afghans have come here to make the trade. Finding a seller of a kidney isn’t hard. Notes advertising private organ sales are plastered on walls and lampposts in Herat and other cities. Kidney brokers distribute business cards offering to put buyers in touch with sellers.

(Adapted from “No father wants to see his son’s kidneys. Afghans pushed to desperate measures to survive,” published on April 19, 2022, by the Wall Street Journal)

It’s a Lego world

Who said the digital world would erode the appeal of colourful bricks? As it plans to step up investment in a digital push, Lego will triple its number of software engineers. Lego’s chief executive said the Danish group was increasing its software investments to several hundreds of millions of dollars and no longer viewed its physical and digital products as separate. ‘It’s much easier to link the two and it becomes one experience,’ Niels Christiansen said. Lego’s biggest announced digital project is a partnership with Epic, the maker of the Fortnite game, to develop a so-called metaverse specifically for children to be launched within the next 12 months. Lego last month officially opened its digital hub in Copenhagen, adding to existing software centres in London and Shanghai. Since its near-collapse in 2003, privately owned Lego has enjoyed considerable success. The group aims to employ 1,800 software workers by the end of 2023.

(Adapted from “Lego to expand online ambitions by tripling total of software engineers,” by Richard Milne, published on May 2, 2022, by the Financial Times)

The dark side of micro-finance

The grim social costs linked to microfinance a decade ago were supposed to be a relic of the past. But efforts to clean up the industry have lost momentum, and with financiers replacing philanthropists, consumer protection has been weakened. Women in Cambodia have been pressured to sell their homes to repay loans, according to human rights groups and academics. In Jordan, more than 23,000 women were wanted by the police in 2019 for owing less than $1,400 each. In Sri Lanka, consumer-advocacy groups estimate that 200 women indebted to microfinance companies have committed suicide in the past three years. Investors, meanwhile, have been richly rewarded. Some microlenders in Cambodia, the Philippines and parts of Africa and Latin America have reported annual returns on equity exceeding 25pc. Big money backs tiny loans that lead to debt, despair and even suicide.

(Adapted from “Big money backs tiny loans that lead to debt, despair and even suicide,” by Gavin Finch and David Kocieniewski, published on May 3, 2022, by Bloomberg)

Having fun at work

Is having fun at work important? Short answer: Yes! Though fun at work is sometimes thought to be a distraction, research suggests that it has a positive impact on engagement, creativity, and purpose — increasing employee retention and reducing turnover. When we find tasks enjoyable, we’re more eager to dig in and complete them. When we make time for joy and laughter, we become resilient.

So ... how can you have more fun at work? 1) Gamify your tasks. As soon as you finish a task, reward yourself with something small. 2) Make one small change. For instance, changing the title of your “To-Do List” into a “Fun List” can help you shift your mindset from, “I need to check these things off today” to “I’m going to have fun today.”3) Play some music! 4) Change your physical location. Head over to a coffee shop or public library to complete your work. A temporary relocation can be restorative.

(Adapted from “Why work should be fun,” by Bob Nelson, published by HBR Ascend)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 9th, 2022

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