Jeans, shampoo, vitamins, razors — they’re products most of use regularly, and yet one group of Australians is being charged more for them for no good reason.
That’s according to research conducted by AMP, which analysed the prices of a range of common products sold by popular Australian supermarkets and other retailers.
The findings were shocking — women were paying an average 29 per cent more for razors compared to similar products targeted at men, 16 per cent more for body wash and 12 per cent more for underwear.
There was an average 11 per cent price difference between men’s and women’s shampoo, a nine per cent discrepancy between multivitamins and a five per cent difference in the cost of jeans.
AMP financial adviser Di Charman said while at first glance the price difference might not seem significant, it added up over a lifetime and could impact women’s financial health.
“Some people might disregard the price difference between (men’s and women’s) products because it’s only a couple of dollars, but when you look at the differences in percentages, some are quite alarming,” she said.
“When you use these items every day over a lifetime, it adds up, so don’t let your hard-earned dollars out of your hands easily.”
Ms Charman said one of the best ways to avoid the gender tax was to think before you buy, and to give yourself enough time to shop around.
Other tips include buying in bulk and taking advantage of “two for one” deals.
But her biggest piece of advice was to make some noise when you notice a blatant rip off.
“Sometimes you’ve got to ask, ‘holy smoke, why is this happening?’ and as women, we need to be a bit more vocal and perhaps give more feedback to organisations we’re purchasing from — all consumers should give feedback, because it’s the only way things change,” she said.
But it’s not just clothing and grooming products costing women more — according to comparison site finder.com.au, Australian women are also being slugged more for services like income protection and even dry cleaning.
Research has revealed women pay nearly 50 per cent more on average for income protection, and that dry cleaners can charge double for women’s blouses, with men’s shirts costing $5 to $7 on average compared with women’s blouses, which can cost anywhere from $8 to $14.
Meanwhile, the contraceptive pill — the most popular form of contraception in Australia — can cost up to $304 per year, compared with just $197 per year for condoms.
Finder personal finance expert Kate Browne said consumers should always “try and negotiate a better deal“, as providers would “much rather keep you as a customer”.
“When it comes to income protection, women are charged more because they are generally considered to be more susceptible to pre-existing medical conditions such as heart problems and pregnancy complications. They are also more likely to take time off to look after children or elderly relatives,” she explained.
“It’s worth checking out personal care products in the men’s section to dodge the pink tax. Sure they come in navy, black or grey, but they’ll probably cost less and do the job just as well.
“Make sure you check the unit pricing to compare costs. It’s the cost in smaller font which breaks down the cost per millilitres or grams.”
Australian lobby group GetUp! has long supported a range of women’s rights campaigns, including the decriminalisation of abortion, addressing pay inequality and closing the gender price gap.
According to the organisation’s website, “women in Australia already earn 18.8 per cent less than men” — meaning women “are being paid less at work, and then paying more at the shops”.
“Even though it’s systems like these that keep gender-based economic inequality going, this practice isn’t illegal; companies are free to use gender-based pricing to up their profits,” the organisation claims.
“It’s time we called out this practice for what it is: making women literally pay for gender stereotypes.”
Campaign director Emily Mulligan told news.com.au the “pink tax” was part of a wider, systemic problem disadvantaging women across many areas.
“Women should not be punished for going about their work or their lives, and they deserve equal opportunities and a level playing field — but at the moment, that doesn’t exist,” she said.
“As consumers we can have some say and we can let our dollars speak for themselves. We can use our spending power to influence products.”
The organisation is campaigning to close the gender price gap, and is urging Aussies to sign up as well as share examples via email or social media using #genderpricegap.