The pink tax debate: How does SA rate?
Amid global outrage over women's products being more pricey than men's, a survey sees if this is true in SA too
South African women joining the global protest against pink tax – the practice of setting prices according to gender – may be tickled pink to discover that they are not paying more than men for most products.
The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, which has petitioned government to stop taxing tampons and sanitary towels, told Times Select that it had received inquiries on the pink tax since a video by international vlogger Dear Alyne sparked outrage on social media.The clinic’s lawyers expected shock findings in South African supermarket aisle to match the vlogger’s claim that retailers “put higher prices on products marketed to women simply because the consumer is a woman”.
“An informal inspection in stores found that most men and women products are priced the same,” said the clinic's attorney Monja Posthumus-Meyjes.
In the video, which has been shared over 25 million times, Alyne claims that the pink tax “isn’t happening only in the United States but all over the world”.Citing a 2015 study by the New York City department of consumer affairs on gender pricing, Alyne called on women to protest by shopping in the men’s department because products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.
The in-depth study – which looked at products of the same size that were made from the exact materials and ingredients and were offered in the same stores and – found that female-oriented products cost 7% more for toys and accessories; 4% more for children’s clothing; 8% more for adult clothing; 13% more for personal care products; and 8% more for senior or home health care products.But without “necessary empirical data having been collected within a South African context”, it would be difficult to say whether the pink tax really existed locally, said Posthumus-Meyjes.
“More comprehensive research has been done on pink tax in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This is something we shortly intend to address,” Posthumus-Meyjes said.
The clinic plans to closely follow the pink tax issue as part of its research in its fight against the tax on feminine hygiene products.Use Your Voice (UYV), a non-profit organisation that distributes sanitary pads across South Africa, this week did its own take on the pink tax by comparing the price of men’s and women’s products.However, some of their followers on Facebook pointed out that the products that were being compared were not identical in style, size or brand.
“I’ve said on the organisation’s Facebook page that you can decide if it’s real or not based on your own findings. The evidence I’ve found and two other trustworthy resources have found are pretty clear,” the NPO’s director René Erasmus.
She said the pink tax existed all over the world.“It is also implemented by the same international manufacturing companies, so my only question is this: Why would South Africa receive special treatment from the same international companies and not have pink tax?”Researcher at Wits Institute for Social Economic Research (Wiser), Lisa Vetten said the pink tax would first have to investigated in South Africa to determine its existence and impact.
“We can’t assume that what has been found elsewhere in the world will automatically apply to South Africa. If we want to focus on taxes and their impact on South African women it would be beneficial for us to think about the increase in VAT. There’s been a call to zero rate tampons and pads which should be supported.”
Vetten said a gender analysis of taxation as a whole and how the country’s taxes were distributed was long overdue.
“Questions about the way gender and tax systems affect each other go well beyond what retailers charge for their products,” she said.