Overweight women are paid less, if they find jobs at all, say researchers

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The Independent Online

Position vacant: Thin women only need apply. New research has found that overweight women are less likely to be successful in job applications than their more slender sisters. And if they are actually given a post, they will be paid less.

Position vacant: Thin women only need apply. New research has found that overweight women are less likely to be successful in job applications than their more slender sisters. And if they are actually given a post, they will be paid less.

For every extra stone a woman carries, her average salary drops by more than 1.5 per cent, according to scientists at the University of Michigan.

A study following the weight patterns and career paths of more than 6,000 women found that the benefit of being thin was equivalent to an extra year's education or two years' experience in a job. An earlier study at Helsinki University on overweight people had found that men did not face the same prejudices as women, and a rounder figure could even be beneficial in their careers.

Obesity experts here and in the United States have long suspected that overweight people are generally regarded as fat and lazy but the Michigan study is the first to quantify the impact. Discrimination against the overweight has economic consequences, they claim.

John Cawley, who led the Michigan study, said: "We have become a very image-conscious society which tends to make judgements about people increasingly on their physical appearance alone.

"The fact that weight lowers certain women's wages may become increasingly important over time as the percentages of people meeting the clinical definitions of overweight and obese are predicted to continue to rise."

More than half of British men and more than two in five women - around 20 million adults - are overweight. Six million are classified as obese and the number is rising.

Diana Pollard, the national co-ordinator for Size, the "national size acceptance network", said that many women had decided to work for themselves because it was the only way to guarantee a decent salary. "Larger women often have to do the jobs that other people don't want and that means lower paid work," she said.

"They are often screened out at interview stage and in many, many cases, if they almost secure the job on the basis of their qualifications the employer will then not give them a job once they have seen that they are overweight."

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