The Gendered Politics of Tax Policy-Making: The Case of Tampons and Splitting in Germany

About this Session


Fri. 12.04.'24 10:00



Abstract :

As Europe grows older, it enters a phase of structural labour shortages. Next to immigration, the obvious source of workers are women. They are equally well educated as men, already live where labour is short but often only work part-time, especially if they are mothers. Yet rather than supporting industries and females, many governments continue to indirectly discriminate women by taxing second earners higher via joint taxation for married couples. This is puzzling from an economics perspective, as joint income taxation decreases female (and overall) labour supply. It is also puzzling from a legal and policy perspective: the European Union has been advocating for equal treatment of all genders and has been calling for an end to joint taxation already since the 1980s. This apparent lack of political will seems to suggest that governments are less interested to reduce gender inequality around taxation, but this is not the case when we look at another gender-equalizing policy, namely the tampon tax. The question we ask is: Why did the German government remove a policy that is efficient (tampon tax), but keep the one that strongly distorts economic behaviour and negatively affect growth (joint taxation)? We argue that the key to answer this question is to understand the politics of taxation. Based on quantitative text analysis of German parliamentary speeches since 1990, we delve deeper into when women and men speak about tax policy. Then, we focus on the two gender-equalizing tax (non-)reforms and try to uncover the precise mechanisms behind the gendered politics of tax-policy making.