Pink Tax, Why Women’s Products Cost More

Sharp difference
Sharp difference
Elisabeth Gamperl

MUNICH — At first sight, it looks like a real bargain buy: five disposable razors for 85 cents, with Aloe-Vera sliding strips, "ideal for the bikini line." No hesitation, the pink razors are in the basket.

But wait: Two shelves to the right, there's what looks like the same kind of package, but in blue. Same brand, same characteristics. But not the same price: 1.45 euros for a pack of 10. If you do the math, you'll find that the women's razors are 17% more expensive.

They call it the "Pink Tax," the extra cost for an essentially identical product that isn't unisex, and the model intended for women is more expensive. In certain cases, the consumer advocate center in Hamburg, Germany, found gaps of up to 200%. A study conducted by the city of New York came to similar conclusions: There, women pay, on average, 7% more than men for comparable products.

The Pink Tax accompanies females from birth onward. Even toys and clothes for girls are, according to the study, more expensive than the equivalent for boys.

Here in Germany, this reporter's own individual experiment did indeed find life to be more expensive for women. Going back to "hair removal": Shaving foam for women costs 89 euro cents for 150 milliliters, while men pay 79 cents for 250 milliliters. That's a women-surcharge of 88%.

It isn't always easy to compare the products, which are typically found on different shelves, far from each other. Ingredients and packaging aren't exactly the same either. Another example are fragrances in the Douglas-Online-Shop. There, the perfume "Exotic Summer For Men" by Davidoff costs 46.99 euros per 125 milliliters. Women pay the same price for their version of the fragrance, but the flacon contains only 100 milliliters.

Service sector too

But the gap doesn't only affect products, there's a surcharge on services-for-the-sexes too. I, a woman, asked for the cheaper men's haircut to three different barbershops in central Munich. No dice. Their explanation: Women's haircuts are more complex and take longer. But is that really true?

Gerd Meier, professor for economic psychology in Lüneburg, says the source of the Pink Tax may be that women are generally more willing to pay higher prices, because they attach more importance to quality. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more price-sensitive.

Dirk Schulz, director of the Gender Studies Institute of the University of Cologne has come to a similar conclusion. "Women are supposed to be the ‘fairer sex" – which contributes to the idea that women spend more money on their looks," he says. Men are newer to the beauty industry, and so brands try to win them over with cheaper prices.

The prices for products and services therefore depend only partly on hard facts like the costs of material, production and wages. Instead, manufacturers simply charge the maximum they think the consumer is ready to pay. Schulz says women are more likely to feel obliged to look good, and thus are ready to fork out for it. The market benefits from this female attitude.

In only a few areas does the market favor women. Online dating services like, for instance, only charge men: Women can flirt for free. In some nightclubs men pay more than women.

The female surcharge may not be caused by the market at all, instead it may be the product of classic discrimination, as French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir described it: If the man's the norm and the woman "different," then men's products too are considered the "normal version." Women's products are therefore considered to be more special, luxurious versions, and are consequently more expensive. Applying the Beauvoir theory to cases for your laptop: the black case costs 39.99 euros; the identical pink version, 44.95 euros.

There is legislation now aimed at making sure men and women are treated equally on the market. From 2012 on, insurance rates for instance, had to be aligned for men and women. Before, women paid higher rates for private health and pension insurances, while men spent more for their car insurance. The so-called "gender pricing" is officially forbidden in the U.S. states of New York and California, while France is debating such measures. Germany isn't even close.

Of course, the gender pay gap has been well documented, with women earning on average 21% less than men. As merchants too, women have to deal with lower margins, as a recent study by the University of Tel Aviv found that they bring in lower prices than men on eBay, for the same products.

What can a woman do to fight against such inequalities? Choose a male username on eBay? Maybe. As consumers, women should definitely be informed, and ready to complain. As long as there's no awareness of this inequality, nothing will change.

For starters: Put the pink razors back on the shelf, take the blue ones instead — they'll do the job just fine.

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At the Mango Festival held in Aswan, Egypt

Nada Arafat

ISMAILIA – Every year during the month of July, crowds gather in the mango farms of Ismailia, in northeastern Egypt, to pick the delectable summer fruit during its relatively short harvest season. But this year, as a result of erratic weather patterns throughout March and April, the usual bountiful mango harvest was severely affected with farmers witnessing a precipitous drop in yield. Some 300,000 farms saw an 80% decrease in productivity, leading to a supply shortage in the market and a corresponding 40% increase in the price of mangoes.

The effects of these climate fluctuations could have been mitigated by farmers, yet according to experts who spoke to Mada Masr, the agriculture minister failed to play a role in raising awareness among farmers and in providing agricultural guidance services.

Heatwaves kill crops

Mangoes are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. For germination to occur, the ideal temperature should be between 10 °C at night and 28 °C during the day, according to agricultural consultants. In Egypt, this weather pattern usually occurs in February. Mango trees then flower and the flowers turn into fruits that take 40 days to grow and be ready for harvest, according to Karam Suleiman, an agricultural engineer.

This year, however, according to mango farmers in Ismailia who spoke to Mada Masr, the beginning of the winter farming season experienced a sudden heatwave followed by another heatwave at the end of March. In both March and April, the temperature dipped to as low as 5 °C at night and as high as 25 °C during the day. Due to these erratic weather fluctuations, the mango flowers that develop into fruit fell before they could mature.

The typical average mango yield from one feddan (approx 1.03 acres or 0.40 hectares) ranges between 6 to 8 tons. This year however, the yield per feddan averaged between just 1 to 2 tons, according to several sources.

Frozen mango suppliers multiply purchases

A farm owner in Al-Tal al-Kebir on the Ismailia Desert Road, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said that his farm produced approximately 35 tons of mangoes last year, whereas this year his yield did not exceed 4 tons. He added that many farmers in the surrounding area, which is famous for mango cultivation, experienced the same steep declines in yield.

The limited mango yield and the subsequent hike in prices has also prompted frozen mango suppliers to multiply their purchases from farms in order to capitalize and sell them next year at an even higher price, according to Ali Saqr, an agricultural engineer in a fruit export company, along with a number of other farm owners who spoke to Mada Masr. Mangos can stay frozen for up to two years.

Khaled Eweis, who buys mangoes and stores them in rented freezers then later sells the frozen mangoes to juice and dessert shops, explained to Mada Masr that juice shops usually use the Zebdia variety of mangoes, whereas dessert shops use Keitt mangoes. The latter is expected to be priced at 25 Egyptian pounds ($1.5) this year after having been sold for half the price at the same time last year.

Last year, Eweis bought Zebdia mangoes for 10–12 Egyptian pounds ($0.6–$0.7) per kilo then resold them for 16 ($1) after freezing them. This year, the Zebdia prices ranged from 17–21 ($1–$1.30) per kilo, and Eweis expects that the price after freezing will reach as high as 25 ($1.5).

Photo of an Egyptian man shouldering a basket full of mangoes

The typical average mango yield from one feddan (approx 1.03 acres) ranges between 6 to 8 tons


Threat to water security

This is not the first time that mango production has been hit hard as a result of fluctuating weather patterns. A similar crisis in the mango harvest took place in 2018, and other crops, such as olives, potatoes, wheat, rice and cotton, have also been adversely affected over the last few years, according to Mohamed Fahem, the head of the government Climate Change Information Center. And human-induced changes to global weather patterns as a result of climate change point to increased agricultural challenges in the future.

The deadly heat waves, fires, hurricanes and other extreme weather events that have dominated headlines in recent years will only become more frequent in the coming decades, according to a United Nations report on climate change released in August. In its sixth assessment report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called human-induced changes to global climate systems "unprecedented." While the report calls for drastic cuts to the global emission of greenhouse gases, much of the effects of climate change are already locked in for decades to come.

Among the areas most vulnerable to climate change is agriculture. A 2018 report titled Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Changes in Egypt found that climate change can have drastic effects on agriculture through changes in temperature, rainfall, CO2 levels and solar radiation. Meanwhile, a 2020 European Union report also found that climate change will pose a threat to global food production in the medium to long-term through projected changes in daily temperature, precipitation, wind, relative humidity and global radiation.

According to various studies, climate change gradually reduces the duration of spring, autumn and winter, which in turn affects the crops that are cultivated during those seasons. In Egypt in particular, the country's agricultural crop map will likely change as a result of a prolonged summer season, according to a study by former Agriculture Minister Ayman Abou Hadid, published in 2010 when he was heading the Center for Agricultural Studies. The study predicted that grain cultivation will gradually move north from Upper Egypt due to increases in winter temperatures, though it did not give a projected timeframe.

Cold and heat waves

Climate change also increases salinity levels in soil due to rising sea levels, which in turn renders the soil only suitable for crops that can handle high salinity yet still require intensive irrigation to mitigate the salinity levels. At the same time, Egypt is currently facing a threat to its water security due to the changes in rain patterns and droughts as well as the potential effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

According to Fahim, the increased cold and heat waves Egypt has experienced has led to the emergence of new, mutated varieties of pests and fungal diseases that are resistant to chemicals. For example, in 2018, aphids and whiteflies spread due to the shortened winter season, and the accumulation of these pests led to huge losses in potato and cotton yields. Meanwhile, palm trees were harmed due to the appearance of red palm weevils.

How farmers counter mango losses

The severe losses in the 2021 mango yield were hard to avoid, but is there a way to counter them?

Karam Suleiman, an agricultural engineer, believes that better methods of agriculture, irrigation and fertilization, along with raising awareness among farmers about the dangers of climate change and how to monitor weather fluctuations could succeed in mitigating such outcomes.

However, Egypt appears currently incapable of providing sufficient safety networks to farmers in order to enable them to confront the effects of climate change.

An example of this is apparent in the failure to enforce mechanisms for warning farmers about potential difficulties in upcoming farming seasons. In June, a report by the Center for Agricultural Studies warned about a decline of as much as 85% in the productivity of farms in Ismailia, where mangoes are mainly cultivated, as well as farms in Sharqiya, Suez and Beheira, due to climate change. However, this report only reached about 13 farmers and owners of mango farms, according to agricultural sources who spoke to Mada Masr.

Ahmed Asal, a mango farmer in Qantara in Ismailia, told Mada Masr that there has been no guidance from authorities in helping farmers understand climate change and how to respond to it. "No one told us what to do and we never received any compensation for our losses," Asal said.

Photo of a hand picking a mango from the tree in Egypt

Mangoes are highly sensitive to changes in temperature

Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua/ZUMA

Agriculture engineers must become climate engineers

Agricultural guidance is a service offered by the Agriculture Ministry to raise awareness and educate farmers about all aspects of farming. The service is usually provided through agricultural engineers who are based in the agricultural cooperatives that exist in every city and town.

Fahim, the head of the Climate Change Information Center, works to play a similar role through his Facebook page and, at times, on various TV channels and newspapers, by raising awareness about weather fluctuations and their effects on agriculture. However, his insights do not have a wide enough audience, particularly at a time when the agricultural guidance is dwindling despite the opening of the Agricultural Guidance Center in Qantara earlier this year under the auspices of the Agriculture Ministry.

"Agricultural guidance has been doing a good job lately, but only in the media, not on the ground," said Alaa Khairy,* an engineer at the Central Laboratory for Climate Change. "If they were really working on the ground, farmers would not have lost as much as they did."

More important crops like wheat will be next

What exacerbates the crisis is that those who are harmed the most are small farmers — those who have between 10 to 20 feddans of land — who cannot afford to take preemptive precautionary measures to mitigate erratic weather patterns nor hire experts who can help them make better decisions about how to handle sudden climate fluctuations. Those farmers also cannot afford to provide covers for their fruits during hot seasons, which is one way to prevent crop damage that is quite costly.

This year's crisis is expected to be repeated in the coming years due to the rapid consequences and effects of climate change on global food security. Aside from mangoes, the effects of climate change are projected to affect far more important crops, such as wheat, with reports showing global wheat crop losses due to heat and drought, a particularly worrisome development for Egypt — the largest importer of wheat in the world.

"In the coming period, agricultural engineers must become climate engineers as well," Suleiman said.


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