What if U.S. employers were required by law to measure employee waistlines annually and take steps to ensure that everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 did not exceed established government limits? SHRM members would probably be in an uproar and ASTD and ISPI members would be scrambling to design waistline reduction training (preferably e-learning that could be completed during a lunch break).


Fiction? You think this could never happen in personal-freedom-loving U.S. of A.? Well…it’s happening in Japan: a 33.5 inch limit for men and a 35.4 inch limit for women. The cost of health care has risen to a point where Japan had to do something dramatic. NEC, Japan’s largest maker of personal computers, fearing severe financial penalties, has started measuring waistlines of all employees over 30 years old.


The U.S. is faced with its own health-care crisis and reducing the number of cases of weight related diseases would lower the cost of health care considerably in America (The International Diabetes Federation puts the waistline threshold at 40 inches for U.S. men and 34.6 inches for U.S. women.). Of course, the U.S. is already on a legally-enforced mission to improve the health of its citizens, by local governments eliminating smoking in public places and heavily taxing cigarettes. Japan has yet to pass laws against smoking. It’s interesting that Japan has attacked the waistline and the U.S. has attacked the lungs. What does this say about the two cultures?


I wonder what an employee in Japan does if his job is Sumo wrestling?