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The world knows that the Philippines is a developing nation that’s home to beautiful, scenic islands. Many tourists go for its white-sand beaches with clear blue waters. However, do people really know what the quality of life is like in the country’s busiest cities? What is it really like to be a working local in its capital city, Manila? 

Based on iPrice Group’s research, living in Manila can be quite a challenge, especially monetarily. The meta-search group gathered the estimated monthly cost of living in six of Southeast Asia’s popular cities on Numbeo, one of the world’s largest cost of living database. The results may surprise you.

Manila has the second-highest rent prices among the six cities, right after Singapore. We all know that Singapore is way ahead of its Southeast Asian peers, so it’s quite surprising that a developing country’s capital city, which is way behind the aforementioned Lion City in terms of economic development, has the second-highest rent prices in the region.

The price of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Manila is 56% higher than Kuala Lumpur’s, 47% higher than Jakarta’s, 31% higher than Ho Chi Minh’s. And yet, these are all cities that have comparable economic states. Surprisingly, it is even 9% higher than Bangkok’s, which is a Southeast Asian tourist hotspot.

Manila has the third most expensive cost of living and the lowest average salary. Again, as expected, there is a wide gap between developed nation, Singapore, and its Southeast Asian neighbors. The cost of living in Singapore is at least 132% higher than the others. Shockingly, however, Bangkok and Manila are neck and neck at the top.

Bangkok has an estimated monthly cost of living of Php 51.5k for a single person. This takes into account every necessity (rent, food, transportation, utilities, etc.). Manila is not that further down, with an estimated monthly cost of Php 50.8k for a single person, which is only 1% lower than the former. Without rent, the total cost of living still reaches about Php 28.8k per month in Manila.

Manila’s cost of living tops the others’ by 33% (Kuala Lumpur), 28% (Ho Chi Minh), and 24% (Jakarta). These numbers will leave people scratching their heads because Numbeo records Manila to have the lowest estimated average net salary among the other cities. The city’s average salary, based on the contributors’ data and aggregated information from authoritative sources, is only about Php 18.9k per month.

Given the prices stated above, it leaves us wondering how comfortable Filipinos residing in Manila really are. The average cost of living is 168% higher than the average salary, so it comes as no surprise that about 35% of Metro Manila’s population is reported to live in unstable, badly constructed shelters in the slums, and 11% of these reside near railroads or garbage dumps.

In Manila, bed space rentals are commonly practiced. Instead of renting actual rooms or an entire apartment, some locals resort to renting bed spaces and sharing rooms with others.  

This leaves you wondering what other things Manila residents need to bear with given the high costs and low wages. Perhaps leisure expenses or take-outs are kept to a minimum or aren’t enjoyed at all. This, along with Manila having the second-worst traffic in the world, gives you an idea of its residents’ quality of life.


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