Fat Fines: Japan’s New Law

July 8, 2008 / Culture, Opinion / 24 Comments

Japan has recently instituted a new law that fines employers that hire ‘obese’ employees or employees with ‘obese’ relatives. Men are required to have waistlines slimmer than 33.5 inches and women 35.4 inches.

As I read that from the newspaper headlines last month, my first reaction was stunned silence.

What happens to those who are tall? One of my best friends, who is Japanese, is a little more than 6’3″ (193cm) tall. There’s no way his waist would be much smaller than 33 inches. If it is, he would be one seriously underweight, undernourished six-footer. Evidently, this measure has not taken into account of height difference.

What happens to discrimination? Being fat in Asia is already a social stigma. Teens and kids get bullied in school for being fat – many driven to the the point of suicide. Case in point: obese people walking around the streets are usually given the eye of judgment. Will enacting such a law only further aggravate such social stigma? Will enacting such a law only serve to justify bullying and discrimination of the overweight?

Japanese Man Waist Checkup
Japanese Man at a Waistline Checkup
Photo from the New York Times

What happens to employment equality? By imposing fines on employers, and not the individual man, will employers now seek out slimmer employees, so they can avoid paying any fines? Will employers now require a full-body pictures of the applicants and their families, before considering them for interviews? This brings discrimination to a whole new level. This law is practically forcing fat people out of society; it’s saying that if you’re fat, you’re not allowed to have a job and they will treat you like a fat piece of unemployed, useless meatball, until you decide to slim down.

Yet not everybody is fat by choice. No, I’m not talking about those who eat french fries everyday, and don’t understand the meaning of portions. There are those who truly are big boned. There are also those who suffer from low metabolic rates, as a result of certain medical conditions. These people will have a very hard time losing weight. And even if they manage to shed some pounds, their weight loss will be virtually impossible to sustain because of their condition. I don’t think it is fair for these people and their employers to be penalized for what they have no control over.

Despite all my protests, I’ve learned something new about Japan today: I now finally understand why the Japanese Parliament is called the Diet.

Just kidding. XD

What do you think of Japan’s new law? Would you like to see it implemented in your country?