• Elise Dottrens

THE PINK TAX, what is it ?

What do we need to live ? What can we conisder as a luxury, or, on the contrary, as a necessity. Apparently, in Switzerland, the consumer doesn’t get to answer this question, but the legislator. We consider this choice a bad one, and here’s why.

In Switzerland, prices are classified in three different categories, and each of these categories are subject to a different VAT (value added tax). Luxury products contain 8% of VAT, the price for hotel nights, 3,8% and necessary products, 2,5%. Up to now, no big deal. But what are those products of first necessity ?

Here is an extract of the swiss law about the VAT :

« The reduced tax rate of 2.5 per cent applies to:

a.the supply of the following goods: 

1.tap water,

2.foodstuffs {…}, with the exception

of alcoholic beverages,

3.cattle, poultry, fish,


5.seeds, planting roots and bulbs,

living plants, cuttings, scions and

cut flowers and branches, {…}

6.animal feed, silage acids, scatterings

for animals,

7.fertilisers, pesticides, mulch {…},


9.newspapers, magazines, books and other printed matter without advertising character of the kinds to be stipulated by the Federal Council; »

Anything missing ? Well yes. Personal hygiene products are classified under the normal VAT rate, at 8%. It involves soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and, most of all, feminine health products ; pads and tampons. This is what we call the « pink tax », and that’s enough to make us angry, us women’s rights defenders.

Who exactly takes those decisions ? RTS (radio télévision suisse, ndlr) journalist Pauline Vrolixs asked Valérie Paris, from our federal finances department, about it. All of this is actually discussed in Bern, in our unattainable but nonetheless sacred Parliament, and decisions are taken on grounds of social and political reasons. Not very enlightening. Is there a chance that it will change soon ? A very little one, in fact. Only a few articles and studies have been published since december 2018, when an article was putting all our hopes on 2019. To this day, Marie Claire UK said that India, Kenya, Liban, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, Australia, UK and Canada have abolished the tax. Not Switzerland. 

The « Pink Tax », however, is also another name for « gender oriented marketing », and if it’s not quite the same, the injustice is comparable. Indeed, it applies to everyday products, from deodorants to childrens toys. Women’s products are frequently more expensive than men’s, even though the only real difference is their color. We went to the Migros to figure it out and here’s an example of what we found :

Again, the reasons for this phenomenon are vague, but the most probable hypothesis is… marketing ! The consumer will too often fall in the trap of thinking that a certain product is specifically made for him/her, and will spend more money on it. I have asked the migros for the reasons behind the price difference of the BIC razors, but up to now my email have stayed unanswered. In order to see it all a bit more clearly, The Pink Tax, an Instagram account created by a swiss student,  analyzed some cases and published her research:

Thankfully, some of our representants in parliament are starting to take action. Or at least they’re trying. Jacques André Maire, member of the socialist party of the Canton Neuchatel, who is currently fighting against the high VAT on our feminine products, or Jean-Christophe Schwaab, member of parlament until 2017, who had then battled against « gender oriented marketing » and its consequences. He explains why in here.

After all, may those « social » and « political » reasons be part of a bigger marketing and economic plot between lobbyists and members of our parlament ?

Do you want to be part of the change ? Don't hesitate to subscribe to the newsletter and/or to contact us, because we will be organizing some actions !


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