MP calls for action on "tampon tax" in Finland

A bid to lower Finland's 24 percent value-added tax on sanitary products has drawn attention to the so-called "pink tax".

Image: Karoliina Simoinen / Yle

Gender-based price discrimination has been under scrutiny in Finland since MP Saara Hyrkkö submitted an official request to parliament on 23 July to propose lowering taxes on women's sanitary products.

The Greens representative proposed lowering the current 24 percent value-added tax on menstrual protection to 10 percent, arguing that such products are "regularly-needed hygiene necessities".

Several countries have banned sales taxes for menstrual products altogether. Kenya was the first back in 2004, and Canada, Colombia, India, Ireland and most recently Australia are others that have since joined the list.

Hyrkkö pointed out unequal pricing for other hygiene products in Finland as well.

"The pink tax phenomenon extends beyond tampons and the like," the Hyrkkö wrote on Twitter two weeks ago, "For example, so-called 'women's razors' are more expensive than razors made for men."

Differentiation as a marketing strategy

So why does a Gillette Venus razor for women with three replacement blades cost more than 16 euros, while a Gillette Mach 3 razor with two replacement blades costs 11.20? The two giants of Finland's grocery duopoly, S Group and Kesko, say the reason lies behind the products' "distinguishing features".

"Razors and their blades are different because men and women possess varying user needs. A product for shaving a face is shaped differently than a product for shaving legs," explains Salla Tuuri, a purchasing manager for Kesko's chain of K markets.

The Consumer Research Centre's Essi Pöyry says producing two different versions of the same product is a tempting marketing ploy. Before consumers know it, they are buying two different kinds of shampoo for their homes.