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PREVALENCE OF PINK TAX IN INDIA

Introduction

Have you ever noticed that products designed for women are much costlier than the ones designed for men? When you purchase a razor, you might notice that the price for a men’s razor is lesser than the one designed for women. This can seem very puzzling at first if you do not know the reason behind it. The reason behind this difference is a hidden tax which has been named the pink tax. It is indeed a fancy term but not a tax in the literal sense. Rather it is a term that refers to how women pay more for the same or similar, products and services than men.[1] It can seem like a myth at first but it very much exists and is noticeable if one pays a little attention to the prices around the market.

The use of the word Pink

Pink portrays softness and it is closer to the colour red which again points out that women are much more emotional than men. Just like gender reveal parties that assign the colour pink to the girl, this tax has the same colour pink in its name. The use of the colour pink signifies a prejudice against women that they love the colour pink and that pink has to be every woman’s favourite colour. The term in itself and through its actual use discriminates against women in general. It is a gender-based price discrepancy that women have to face in their daily lives.

The psychology behind the pink tax

The beneficiaries of this additional revenue earned are the companies that sell the particular product. They target women customers based on psychology. Women tend to spend more on their appearance as compared to men and it is this tendency that has been targeted. The packaging is made aesthetic and appealing to women. This leads to them not even noticing the extra prices charged on products.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf quotes – “I think the motivations around the pink tax come more explicitly from a classic capitalist stance: If you can make money off it, you should.”[2]

Thus, the pink tax is a very easy method for companies to make extra money off women by targeting their interests after observing their behavioural patterns.

It’s not just goods; It’s much more than that

Another area in which the pink tax is imposed is services. An experiment was conducted by CBS News where two members of their staff — a man and a woman — went to multiple dry cleaners in New York City with the same white cotton button-up.  The experiment found that “more than half of the dry cleaners charged the female staff member at least twice as much to clean the shirt. Some even charged her three times as much.”[3] Another example is where salons charge women much more than men.

Income Disparities are further enforced

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022[4], just five of the 146 countries examined had scored more than 0.80 for salary equality for an equivalent job. (1.0 represents complete pay parity.) Additionally, 129 nations recorded a decline in women’s involvement in the labour force compared to men’s participation in the preceding year. The analysis concluded that one of the most significant reasons causing general gender-based wealth disparity is the gender pay gap.

Several other studies which have published their results online also say the same. How is it fair that they are still charged more than these men? The government is also not the one benefitting from this tax. It just ends up being an economic burden on a woman. According to estimates from investment firm JPMorgan Chase, the pink tax costs women on average $1,300 annually.[5] This tax can be seen on various products of daily usage such as razors, soaps, lotions, deodorants, and clothes which are designed differently for men and women. It can be observed that the tax is seen more in the area of personal care products.

‘Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer’, global research by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs, found that products for women cost 7% more than the average and that the differential increases to 13% for personal care items.[6]

The findings of the Logical Indian’s investigation into the costs of the most basic razors for men and women on an online shopping platform were shocking. While the cost for a men’s razor was ₹70, the cost for a women’s razor was ₹250.[7]Hence, it is extremely important to call out these companies and brands which impose this tax and take steps for the removal of this tax. Products should be priced more equally for both men and women. They should not be colour biased either which is usually seen in the packaging where products for women are pink while the ones for men are more on the blue and black side.

Solutions and Laws

As we move towards a fair and equal world for all genders, several steps are being undertaken to curb this nuisance. The United Nations for example has called out the pink tax and asked countries across the world to take steps to ensure the removal of this particular tax. These steps at the same time advance towards the 5th Sustainable Development Goal of the UN which is achieving gender equality.[8]

Another solution until proper laws are imposed is buying men’s products. Almost all the time they have very similar ingredients as compared to women’s products. Thus, purchasing them is a viable option for women. Along with them, another option is purchasing gender-neutral products. However, these solutions are only short-term solutions that might not work for all products. We need something more concrete to abolish this unfair tax.

As for laws, there is currently no legislation that directly impacts the oink tax. However, the pink tax indirectly violates several rights:

  • It violates the Right to Equality as established under Article 14 of the Constitution[9] due to the differential pricing.
  • It violates the Right against discrimination under Article 15[10] as women are being discriminated against on the basis of gender.
  • It violates the Constitution’s essential spirit of non-discrimination, fairness, equity, and non-arbitrariness.

How is it different from the tampon tax?

Just like the pink tax, there is another tax that is charged on sanitary products such as pads, cups, etc. This is called a “tampon tax”. This tax also discriminates unfairly against women just because of the fact they menstruate and men don’t. Steps have also been taken by various countries to minimise these taxes to support women a lot more. One such example is a tampon. India along with countries like Australia, Canada, and Rwanda has taken steps to remove the tax on the tampon.[11]

Conclusion

There is a need to call out brands for their strategies to fish more money out of the pockets of women. At the same time, women consumers in particular should be made more aware of these price discrepancies and should make choices to buy products for themselves only after knowing the pink tax. Companies should not exploit women because they may be willing to pay more. This Act is unethical in its very essence. There is a need to enforce the spirit of the Constitution and ensure gender equality. We also need extensive legislative reform in India to ensure that the pink tax is abolished completely. Thus, we need to unpink discrimination as soon as possible.

Author(s) Name: Jui Purwat

Reference(s):

[1] Amy Fontinelle, ‘What is the Pink Tax?’ (Investopedia, Aug 11, 2022) <https://www.investopedia.com/pink-tax-5095458> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023

[2] Chanda Katnema (Rethinking Economics) <https://www.rethinkeconomics.org/author/paddy-nelson/> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023

[3] The Pink Tax: How Women Pay More for Pink by Bankrate (The Burgundy Zine, Jan 31, 2020) <https://burgundyzine.com/the-pink-tax-how-women-pay-more-for-pink-by-bankrate/> Accessed on Feb 7, 2022

[4] Global Gender Gap Report <https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2022/> Accessed on Feb 7, 2022

[5] Andrew Berry, ‘The Problematic Pink Tax’ (J.P.Morgan, Jul 27, 2021) <https://www.chase.com/personal/investments/learning-and-insights/article/the-problematic-pink-tax> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023.

[6] NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, 2015 <https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/partners/Study-of-Gender-Pricing-in-NYC.pdf> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023

[7] Ratika Rana,’What Is Pink Tax And How Does It Contribute To Increasing Gender Bias?’ (The Logical Indian, Sept 18, 2021) <https://thelogicalindian.com/gender/pink-tax-gender-bias-30767> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023

[8] UN Sustainable Development Goals <https://sdgs.un.org/goals> Accessed on Feb 7, 2023

[9] The Constitution of India, Article 14

[10] The Constitution of India, Article 15

[11] Arushi Jain, ‘The Economic Aspects of the Pink Tax’ (Rethinking Economics) < https://www.rethinkeconomics.org/2022/11/10/pink-tax-in-india/#:~:text=Several%20countries%E2%80%94including%20Australia%2C%20Canada,on%20equity%20outside%20of%20gender > Accessed on Feb 7, 2023