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The pink tax explained: the real cost of being a female consumer

Alex Ritchie avatar
Alex Ritchie
- 5 min read
The pink tax explained: the real cost of being a female consumer

Have you ever wondered why the price for a generic item at the grocery store seems to differ depending on if it’s aimed at men or at women? You’ve just experienced the pink tax.

The pink tax refers to the phenomenon of gendered pricing, in which items targeted or marketed towards women having a higher cost than comparable products targeted towards men.

The pink tax is not an actual government mandated tax, but a marketing tactic and income-generating scenario for companies.

It’s not hard to find these products. Look for “female” products, typically branded with an overflow of pinks and florals, often scented - and bonus points if the packaging has glitter. Comparatively, the “masculine” products are often a streamlined navy blue or black, with no added frills and no added fragrances. Think deodorants, razors, shampoos, body wash. The products are ostensibly the same, but the difference at the cash register is not.

One of the most egregious examples of this that went viral in the early 2010s came from stationary supplier, Bic. The ‘Bic for Her’ line was a range of pens that included pinks and purples and was specifically marketed towards women and “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand”.

A lack of understanding of how hands work aside, the stand-out for this range was its price – which was considerably higher than its other products. These “specialty” pens for women had a cost that was 70% higher than a regular pen.

This is the crux of the pink tax, which is unfortunately still a common occurrence in Australia.

The pink tax in full effect in Australia

You may assume that the pink tax is no longer an issue, but you would be surprised. Research from AMP analysed the prices of common products sold by popular Australian supermarkets and retailers.

It found that women were paying an average of:

  • 29% more for razors,
  • 16% more for body wash, and
  • 12% more for underwear.

While a few dollars and cents here or there doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up over a lifetime of consumer purchases. It creates a cumulative impact, when combined with the other financial equalities women experience - such as the gender pay gap, that is being paid less for the same work.

For example, if you purchase a body wash that costs $2 more every quarter than its competitors, over 50 years that amounts to $400 more out of your pocket for feminine-targeted products.

That is a $400 tax on your purchases just for the privilege of buying one item targeted towards women. Now consider how that stacks up when you include every other item you purchase, from clothing to beauty products, that also charges the pink tax.

Consumer choice plays a role

So, what can everyday Aussies do to avoid paying the pink tax? It comes down to your consumer choices.

By being aware that this may be an issue the next time you go to the grocery store, you can make a more informed decision around which products are worth the price tag.

RateCity tips for combatting the pink tax:

  • Do your research - Look at comparable products targeted towards men and women to see if there is a price disparity before you put it in your cart. This is especially important for your financial products as well, as comparing your options could save you thousands in fees and other charges.
  • Consider “masculine” products - A lot of the time these products are essentially the same, so it may be worth opting for the male-targeted products for greater affordability.
  • Go gender neutral - Consider purchasing gender neutral products instead and favouring gender neutral stores. This can apply for anything from kids toys to clothing.
  • Call it out - If you notice any discriminatory pricing when you next shop, don’t be afraid to call it out on social media. The power of your words can go a long way in stopping companies from charging a pink tax.

Pink tax part of a greater problem

The pink tax is simply part of a greater issue facing women across Australia. There is still an evident gap between men and women in many facets of life, including income.

The latest data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows that the gender pay gap currently sits at 22.8%, with women still earning $25,800 less than men on average.

This isn’t just the notion that all employers pay men more, it’s actually a broader cultural problem. According to the WGEA, the gender pay gap is influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Conscious and unconscious discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions.
  • Women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female-dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages.
  • Lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles.
  • High rates of part-time work for women.
  • Women’s greater time out of the workforce for caring responsibilities impacting career progression and opportunities.
  • Women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work.

It’s crucial that women across Australia take the pink tax as a timely reminder to be aware of how far-reaching gender-based discrimination can go. While a lot of these issues cannot be solved overnight, it’s always worth comparing your options when you make any financial decisions, whether they be at the grocery store or choosing your first home loan.

Disclaimer

This article is over two years old, last updated on March 8, 2022. While RateCity makes best efforts to update every important article regularly, the information in this piece may not be as relevant as it once was. Alternatively, please consider checking recent bank accounts articles.

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Product database updated 20 May, 2024

This article was reviewed by Mia Steiber before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.