“Pink it, and Raise the Price”: How women are affected globally by the ‘Pink Tax’

Hannah Costello examines the role of the ‘Pink Tax’ globally, what it is, and how the gender pay gap plays a role.

While not an official tax, the ‘Pink Tax’ is a method, dating back to 1994, of boycotting by companies seeking to make more money – by increasing the tax on products marketed towards women. They achieve this by taking regular items – clothing, stationery, toiletries – and then creating a ‘feminised’ version which they charge at an increase compared to the original price – when the products are geared towards men.

Sometimes these retailers will charge up to 50% more for marketed women’s products. For instance, this imbalance can clearly be seen in the difference in the price of razors. In Dunnes Stores, the cost of BIC razors (x10 pack) for women is €2.95, whereas, the price of BIC razors (x10 pack) for men is €1.90 – a 55% increase on the initial cost. The difference? One is pink. The other is yellow.

It is estimated that the monetary value of the unpaid work that women do equates to approximately $10.9 trillion. However, women frequently face many financial barriers, like the ‘Pink Tax’. The ‘Pink Tax’ can be seen spread across multiple consumer goods, from haircuts to dry cleaning, with both being priced higher for women than men. It has been estimated that women spend an extra $1,300 per year compared to men, solely because of the ‘Pink Tax’. Furthermore, if women were to invest the $1,300 extra they spend, because of this ‘tax’, with a 5 per cent return, it would add up to approximately $16,000 in 10 years. This, in turn could be put into their retirement fund over a number of years, which women can’t invest into, like men, due to this ‘tax’.

While the figures mentioned above are applied in the United States, this issue is still prevalent in Ireland. With the average woman in Ireland retiring with pension savings around 50% lower than the average man - who has €125,000 saved while the average woman has a mere €69,000 – why this difference is here becomes apparent when taking into consideration the impact of the ‘Pink Tax’ on top of the already prevalent gender pay gap. For instance, when women get their hair cut, you’ll notice in the salons that they’d have to pay well over €60, whereas men would pay €50 or under. This imbalance can clearly be seen if you look at the Toni & Guy price list, for instance, a haircut with a senior stylist for a woman would cost €79, whereas for a man it would cost €50 – that is a difference of €29.

Not only is there a gap in the retail industry, but women are also further incapacitated due to a pay gap – with Eurostat reporting a gender pay gap of 11.3% in Ireland. Although merit can be given to Ireland for being the only EU country to have a zero tax rate on sanitary goods, the matter at hand is that there is still an imbalance seen with both the gap in pay and the implementation of the ‘Pink Tax’ across different retail companies. While women have been outperforming men academically – at every level, for decades - they are still offered lower starting salaries straight after university compared to the men applying with identical resumés.

What can be done about this injustice? It is clear that the government needs to step in to control this blatant bias in the retail industry against women, by bringing in laws against the ‘Pink Tax’ and outlawing these archaic gender-based price discriminations. Furthermore, in general, the government has to do more in closing this obvious gap that is still prevalent to modern day women. While a lot has been accomplished over the years – more has to be done. There needs to be a change in the law so that people can find out from their employers what others on the same pay grade are earning, so bosses can’t continue to get away with unfair pay.

While it is obvious that we’ll be waiting a while before the government takes action on these matters, we can do other things to prevent this injustice from greatly affecting us as individuals. While at first paying a surcharge for the regular items you use, purely due to marketing, may seem insignificant – it can make a difference over time. The amount of money saved buying items that are typically marketed to men, does equate to a lot over time. Hence, wherever possible, try buying gender-neutral versions – for example razors, deodorant, shaving cream and shower-gel.

Moreover people should take this issue to social media, as the ‘Pink Tax’ is an issue that is not widely talked about, nor written about. The bigger waves people make, the more attention the ‘Pink Tax’ gets thus leading to better and quicker solutions – so, take to social media and voice your concerns on the matter, shine a light on your experiences surrounding buying gender-based products. We women – and men – need to stand together and fight this inequality. We need to send a message to retailers, we need to call them out for overcharging for the same products just because they ‘pinked it’. We shouldn’t settle for this injustice anymore.