Overweight people are usually discriminated against in schools, workplaces and even love affairs.
For instance, Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline has barred a number of female fight attendants from international flights because they are deemed “too big.”
The airline argued that it needs to pay an extra HK$140 in fuel cost per year if one flight attendant gains one kilo of weight. Therefore, the company tries to put a cap on the clothing size of its flight attendants in order to improve profitability.
But apparently, fuel cost is not the only concern.
“Aeroflot is a premium airline and part of the reason people pay for tickets is the appearance of its employees,” said Pavel Danilin, a member of the airline’s public council.
He said a survey of Aeroflot passengers showed that “92 percent want to see stewardesses who fit into the clothes sizes we are talking about here”.
In fact, many other professions have set either specific or inexplicit weight requirements. For example, male and female applicants for the Hong Kong Police Force will be required to pass a set of physical tests involving exercises like high jump and running, which will effectively eliminate overweight applicants.
As overweight is often associated with health problems, to prevent higher related social costs, some countries have even launched specific policies to deal with obesity.
Three US cities — Philadelphia, Auckland and San Francisco — intend to levy a fat tax on junk food retailers of jumbo hamburger, large coke and ice cream of two scoops or more. Therefore, overweight people would pay more for these junk food.
That said, Europe is taking a completely different attitude.
The European Court of Justice made a landmark ruling that obesity can, in severe cases, constitute a disability.
Employers will not be allowed to dismiss obese workers. Also, they will be required to make adjustments to the work environment to accommodate their special needs.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 5
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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