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November 26, 2021
| Money

What is pink tax? The real cost of being a woman

Pink tax unfairly burdens women and amounts to price discrimination, and we’re calling for regulations in Australia to prevent it

Take a closer look at the shelves next time you’re shopping and you’ll notice something disturbing: items marketed at women usually have a higher price tag than those targeting men.

It’s called the “pink tax” and it costs the average woman more than $1,300 extra each year, which is concerning particularly when you consider the gender pay gap is rising in Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released in August showed average weekly earnings for full-time adult men grew by 1.8% to $1,837 in the six months to May, while for full-time women it increased by just 0.9% to $1,575.

Equal Pay Day fell on August 31 this year, marking the 61 extra days from the end of the previous financial year that women on average, must work to earn the same annual pay as men.

When pink tax jumped the shark

While the pink tax has been targeting women unfairly for years, it reached peak ridiculous in 2012 when Bic released a ‘Bic For Her’ range. The pens were described as being "designed to fit comfortably in a woman's hand" (whatever that means) and in our favourite pink and purple colours they came with a higher price tag than Bic’s regular pens.   

Ellen DeGeneres was among those who slammed the marketing ploy.

"They have a new line of pens called Bic for Her. This is totally real," she said on her eponymous show. "I know you're thinking, 'It's about damn time. Where have our pens been?' "Can you believe this? We've been using man pens all these years." You can watch the full skit here - it’s a good laugh we must admit. 

Bic for Her may be long gone, but the price difference between Bic razors for men and women remains. Big W, for example, is currently selling a 15-pack of yellow Bic Sensitive disposable razors for men is $6RRP, while the pink Twin Lady sensitive version is $8RRP. 

We’re pretty certain pastel packaging is no more expensive to produce than any other hue, so why the $2 price hike?

The cost of being a female consumer

In 2015, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) released a landmark report titled “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer”.

It found that gender-based pricing follows a woman throughout her life, leading to her paying more for everything from childhood toys in early childhood to walking sticks later in life.

On average, women’s products cost 7% more than similar products for men, with the biggest gap found in personal care products, where women paid 13% more.

In October 2020, New York State finally moved to officially prohibit businesses from charging a pink tax on consumer goods and services marketed towards women and girls.

"In New York, women have been forced to accept the unjust reality of a higher price tag for identical goods marketed to men," said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls. "It was unacceptable and starting today women and girls across this state can be confident that it won't happen again.”

Pink tax prevails in Australia

Numerous surveys and reports show the pink tax is still alive and well and unfairly affecting women in Australia today.

Research conducted by AMP in 2019 showed women were paying an average 29% more for razors compared to similar products targeted at men, 16% more for body wash, 12% more for underwear; 11% more for shampoo, 9% more for multivitamins; and 5% more for jeans.

According to comparison site finder.com.au, Australian women are also being charged more for services including income protection and dry cleaning.

Its research revealed women pay nearly 50% more on average for income protection, while dry cleaners can charge up to double for women’s blouses.

Another financial challenge facing women is the prohibitive cost of products used for menstruation and contraception purposes.

Finder found the contraceptive pill, for example, can cost up to $304 per year, compared with just $197 per year for condoms. And it’s hard to fathom that sanitary pads and tampons were classified as “non-essential” items by the Australian Government until 2019, when politicians unanimously voted to stop them being saddled with a 10% goods and services tax. I mean really?!

Sadly, the move has done little to address the issue of “period poverty”. Each month in Australia, up to 1 million menstruating women struggle to afford sanitary products, with many missing school and work as a result. 

Whilst it’s positive to see that the NSW Government has launched a free menstrual hygiene products pilot program for 30 schools across Western Sydney and Dubbo in March, it really doesn’t make more than a dent in the issue. 

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said: “It’s important no female student feels like they can’t fully participate in all aspects of school life because they do not have access to menstrual hygiene products.

“I want to make sure there are no barriers to education for female students just because they get periods. Once the pilot is finished we can look at how we roll this service out to all schools in the state."

Once schools return to face-to-face learning we’re hoping to see this roll out for all female students. 

10 tips for beating the gender price gap

Pink tax unfairly burdens women and amounts to price discrimination. The Remarkable Woman strongly believes there should be regulations in Australia to prevent it. Here are ten ways you can make a difference with your wallet and your voice. 

1. Seek out equivalent personal care items in the men's section - they do the job just as well.
2. Most supermarket shelves show the cost per unit (eg millilitres, grams or per item). Compare the cost of gender-based goods during your decision making.
3. Shop around to find services such as dry cleaners that don't charge women more. 
4. Do your research and support brands that offer gender neutral pricing. 
5. Contact companies that have discriminatory pricing and tell them you’re not willing to pay more for identical items. 
6. Call brands out on social media that charge a #pinktax and tell your friends. 
7. Buy gender neutral toys for your children.
8. Get a few quotes to be sure you aren’t getting ripped off.
9. Reward stores that offer gender neutral pricing and shop with them. 
10. Sign this GetUp petition aimed at closing the gender price gap. 

Click here for further tips from financial planner Shivani Gopal on money management.

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