Your voice: Weight discrimination should be illegal; beware of job scams (long letters)

  • This week, one student writes about discrimination in the workplace based on body type and the mental health issues it can cause
  • Another teen warns Hongkongers to be on the lookout for job scams, especially in Southeast Asia
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Everyone should feel comfortable at work, and discrimination in any form shouldn’t be tolerated. Photo: Shutterstock

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Weight discrimination shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace

Natalie Kwok, St Paul’s Secondary School

Weight discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue. Though society seems to be more open-minded nowadays, this form of discrimination still happens a lot and is more likely to affect women.

In a 2021 survey involving 14,000 people across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and the US who took part in a weight management programme, 58 per cent of respondents reported experiencing weight stigma from their colleagues.

Sadly, this can lead to mental and physical health problems and loss of employment opportunities.

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People who worry about their weight can be distracted at work and lose their self-esteem. They may become suspicious when their colleagues laugh, thinking they are making fun of their body, even if they are not.

They could also suffer from anxiety and depression, sleep less, have poor eating habits and become less physically active.

According to a 2012 study by human resources professionals, obese people are less likely to be hired or nominated for a supervisory position.

You deserve to feel happy in your own skin! Photo: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, a 2008 survey found that overweight job applicants were viewed as being “less conscientious, less agreeable, less emotionally stable and less extroverted than their ‘normal-weight’ counterparts”.

It’s unfair to judge someone based on their body size. This does not reflect their personality, potential and skills.

Many places have laws that ban discrimination based on gender, race, or religion, but this is not the case for weight. Thus, a new law should be introduced banning weight discrimination, especially in the workplace.

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ViuTV’s Extra Beauty, which challenges traditional beauty standards, has been a success, leading to a shift in attitude among Hongkongers. The beauty pageant welcomes candidates who are seen as “obese” by health authorities, and viewers are invited to pick their favourites.

I believe TV shows with similar themes should continue airing in Hong Kong.

Apart from raising awareness about weight discrimination, such programmes can provide a stage for “fat” people to reveal their inner beauty.

Companies should cultivate a better workplace atmosphere for everyone, no matter their gender, sexuality, religion, or size.

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Beware of jobs that seem too good to be true

Ken So On-kin, Lingnan Hang Yee Memorial Secondary School

In a worrying trend, more than 30 Hongkongers have recently fallen victim to job scams in Southeast Asia.

In fact, about 20 people from Hong Kong are currently believed to be trapped in Myanmar and Cambodia.

This happened because crime syndicates in the region are luring in unemployed people with false promises of high-paying jobs.

A victim of a job scam luring residents to Southeast Asia into forced labour arrives safely at Hong Kong International Airport on August 22. The photo shows immigration staff providing assistance to the man. Photo: HANDOUT from ISD

There is no such thing as a free lunch. People should pay more attention to job offers and look out for anything suspicious, such as huge salaries for minimal work.

They should also thoroughly research the company before making any commitments. If applicants are kept in the dark about key information, such as work location and job duties, then this is a sign that something suspicious is going on.

Following recent reports about the victims of forced labour, more Hongkongers have become aware of human trafficking. The news has sparked heated discussions on many online platforms. As responsible citizens, we should be vigilant and warn vulnerable people who may fall prey to such scams and keep them safe.

How Hong Kong residents were lured into forced labour in Southeast Asia through job advert scams

Most importantly, the Hong Kong government should cooperate with other countries to rescue these victims. It should also review its existing legislation and increase the penalties for human trafficking. Currently, if one engages in human trafficking, he or she is liable to a maximum 10-year prison sentence. This is far too lenient.

I hope Hongkongers now have a better understanding of human trafficking and forced labour, and will be sceptical of jobs that seem too good to be true.

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