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The Widespread Plague of the Pink Tax

15 January, 2024 | Kyleigh Ing


Readers Note: This article explores the breadth of the pink tax on an international level, examining and referencing select countries. Countries were selected in order to highlight diversity and differences while others were omitted due to overlapping similarities. 


Found in the bounding of history’s oldest tomes, women have been seen as subpar and treated as such. This prejudiced treatment has continued leaching into society becoming more and more of a pressing issue. The pink tax is a term that arose in the 70’s to describe the inequality where products marketed towards females are more expensive than the same items marketed to men. The pink tax is a silent scheme present all over the world, yet has different impacts in different countries. 


A 22  year old college student adored the colour pink and was looking to purchase dumbbells in this colour. However, the price that had been double the exact same dumbbell in black, had deterred her from this purchase. China had been rooted in traditional practices for decades and is only now realising the prominence of the pink tax within their economy. The citizens have taken action, attempting to convince the government to drop the 13% tax rate on feminine products,  arguing their necessity. These high prices on products that are needed throughout life further deter families from having children which is highly crucial as China is facing a record low birth rate. In response, there has been an uprising in boycotting brands that contribute to sustaining the pink tax as many believe, “Every dollar spent is a vote for the world.”


Even with democracy, the pink tax is highly prevalent. In a recent discovery, Shoppers Drug Mart, one of Canada’s leading pharmacies, stated that they would align their prices to be consistent, no matter which gender the products were marketed towards. They did this only after a prominent news outlet had commented. With adjusted pricing, there was a large inconsistency amongst the different locations across the province, most notable in the Greater Toronto Area. 


While not specific to Canada itself, not only are the prices of feminine products excessive and unfair, there is also an evident difference in salary between men and women, especially older women. Canadian statistics indicate that women in their mid 40s and 50s only receive 73% of what their male counterparts make. This increases the struggle that individuals are facing, especially with high inflation rates and economic constraints. 


In each country, governments are taking different measures to address this situation whether it is effective or not. Yet, Scotland is setting the prime example after deviating from other neighbors in the U.K. A drafted proposal in 2016 has finally come to fruition after parliament approved legislation to provide free sanitary products to women in 2020. The preliminary stages in the project included government investments of £42,500 to provide these resources to low income women within the Aberdeen region. It was ongoing for six months in an effort to eradicate poverty. Now, menstrual products like tampons and sanitary pads are available to anyone who needs them at community centres and pharmacies. This project was influenced by New Zealand and Kenya where they provide these products in their public schools. 


This is such a detrimental act to alleviating the constraints of the pink tax because in 2019, a survey consisting of 1000 females found that more had been absent from school due to a lack of period products compared to the flu or vacation. Additionally, current political conflicts have proven substantial as there was a record 150% increase in demand for free hygiene products within two months in 2022 compared to 2021. 


The pink tax discriminates against low income households and prevents these already struggling individuals from attending school or work. This issue sparks immense controversy as there is a divide between viewing these products as a human right or a luxury. Without access to these products, we are taking a step back in society, relying on archaic practices to compensate for our biological natures. Women did not have a choice and thus should not be burdened because of their sex. This can pose health risks as some will resort to dirty rags, paper towels or other extraordinary measures to function in society. It is a burden women did not ask for. Therefore we must continue to press the issue upon the government to spark real action that will eradicate the pink tax and finally instigate the gender equality we strive for as a society. 




Works Cited



Cowley, Jenny, and Charlsie Agro. “Shoppers Drug Mart eliminates 'pink tax' on menstrual pain medication following CBC investigation.” CBC, 24 March 2023, https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-pink-tax-1.6787778. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Gao, Larissa. “Feminist consumers in China push back against the 'pink tax.'” NBC News, 11 November 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/feminist-consumers-china-push-back-pink-tax-rcna124560. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Gao, Rebecca. “Janine Rogan believes in the radical power of personal finance education.” Macleans.ca, 25 September 2023, https://macleans.ca/economy/janine-rogan-pink-tax/. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Sullivan, Becky. “Scotland becomes the first country to offer tampons and pads for free, officials say.” NPR, 16 August 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/08/16/1117748486/scotland-tampons-pads-menstrual-free-period-products. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Webster, Catriona. “Scotland 'first country in world' to give free sanitary products to women on low incomes | The Independent.” The Independent, 12 July 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/scotland-first-country-free-sanitary-products-tampon-tax-low-income-women-aberdeen-a7836441.html. Accessed 26 December 2023.


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