TAFEP Hero 2023 Oct
human resources online

Are obese workers paid less?

Being obese already comes with it's fair share of complications, but now it has come to light that bosses and hiring managers might be actively discriminating against those who are battling the bulge.

According to a new study conducted by researchers from Arizona State University (ASU), a significant pay inequality exists among obese men in the country, especially among obese manual labourers.

Polling 6,901 men and 5,103 women between the ages of 18-55, the study found overweight professional workers earned between 18.5% and 41.5% more than overweight manual labourers.

Read more: Working in HR is making you fat

The report highlighted obese workers who were not in manual jobs did not suffer as much financially, due to the belief among many that weight gain is considered a symbol of status and wealth.

Researchers had originally hypothesised wage penalties would also be found for women, in part because of changing ideals and workplace structures. However, while women in China made less on average than men, the results showed no disparity in wages because of body weight.

"Traditional perspectives that hold that female plumpness is a symbol of fertility and beauty are giving way to Western ideals such as fashion concepts that idealise thin body types as the country becomes increasingly urbanised,” Chih-Chien Huang, author of the study and a recent graduate from ASU’s school of sociology, said.

“China has also been undergoing rapidly rising obesity rates since the late 1980s.”

Because obesity affects quality of life, sick leave and workplace productivity, there is an "urgent need to understand the underlying mechanism by which social factors contribute to rapidly growing obesity rates", the report stated.

"Once causes are understood, effective intervention strategies can be developed to lessen the high economic burden of obesity in the developing world."

Image: Shutterstock

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