Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Japan Penalizes Employers for Obese Workers

Who says governments can't get involved in the obesity fight?

Not Japan.

This month all Japanese employees over the age of 40 will undergo a mandatory "flab check" to ascertain their risk of developing metabolic syndrome - the constellation of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL (good cholesterol) and insulin resistance.

The cut off for men will be 85cm or 33.5 inches (I couldn't find the cut off for women).

If you're found to be wider than the cut off you'll be given an exercise and diet plan and in some cases you might be referred to a doctor.

Japanese firms will be required to cut the number of overweight workers and their dependants by 10% by 2012 and those firms who fail to do so will face surcharges of up to 10% on contributions to a welfare fund for the elderly.

My take?

While I'm all for government involvement in obesity treatment and prevention, I don't think this is really the way to go. Penalties are not something I would ever want to see imposed and while one might argue they're penalizing the corporations not the individuals, I'll be curious to see what Japan's unemployment numbers do in 2012 when a bunch of obese folks get layed off before their corporations get penalized.

What do you think?

[Hat tip to my sister Michal and her colleague Josh]

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  1. Theresa11:20 am

    It will allow the companies to discriminate when hiring. Maybe they should stop importing so much beef and go back to a healthier lifestyle!

  2. Theresa11:24 am

    One more note....They should also think about how the influx of fast food restaurants has affected their waistlines!

  3. The sad fact is that there is already discrimination against the obese in the workplace. And even sadder, when I reassess how my performance rated when I was in the obese classification, the honest truth was that although I put out more effort than my counterparts, I produced less finished work, even from my chair in an executive level desk job.

    Of course, when I was 350 plus pounds, I would not have admitted this truth to anybody, including myself.

    Government involvement in the issue may or may not have had an impact on my situation. If I had been mandated to acknowlege my weight and girth earlier, I might have done something about it years before I did. Obesity, first and foremost, is a disease of denial.

    While I recognize the discomfort that all involved may experience by this unique action by Japan, I'm not necessarily against it if it is administrated fairly and employees are given the support they need to change their lifestyles. Whether that will be the case, or whether is is just yet another means of making people feel bad for no good reason remains to be seen.

  4. 85cm? Whoa! Dumb question, I'm sure but ... are Japanese men that much shorter than American men? I ask because, while I'm slightly overweight with a BMI of 25.5 (5'10" and 178# with a waist measurement of 86cm), even by BMI measurements I'm not obese. Yet, my waist size would cause my company to be fined?

  5. Hi Shilingi-moja,

    Japanese waist circumference values are stricter as it has been found that for the same waist circumferences the Japanese have greater amounts of visceral fat. It's thought that it's the visceral fat deposits that lead to the development of metabolic syndrome.

    That said, 85cm seems quite strict to me even when considering the Japanese population.

  6. Anonymous1:38 pm

    Citation, please?