How does the costs of living in Kuala Lumpur fare with those of developed countries?Chen Wan Lim
Rising costs of living seems to be the recurrent issue that is being discussed these days. The key culprits for things becoming more expensive boils down to two major issues – the first is inflation on basic necessities and the second is the slower-than-desired wage growth. However, regionally, Kuala Lumpur is still one of the cheapest cities to live in if compared to developed cities such as Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong. In fact, comparing to major ASEAN cities such as Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila, Kuala Lumpur is still generally considered cheaper in terms of general cost of living. Let’s take a look at the costs of some key items in these cities:
- Housing and accommodation
Comparing apartment rental costs in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong, KL is generally 75%, 57% and 78% cheaper respectively. To purchase an apartment in those developed cities is also significantly more expensive compared with that of Kuala Lumpur by 83%, 75% and 88% respectively. Closer to home, if comparing KL to regional developing cities such as Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila, the cost to rent an apartment in KL is also cheaper by about 27%, 44% and 33% respectively.
Basic utilities such as electricity, water, municipal fees and telecommunication are also cheaper in Kuala Lumpur compared with that of Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong. Utility fees in KL compared with those developed cities are 50%, 64% and 63% cheaper. Regionally, KL’s utility rates are also cheaper compared with those of Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila. Rates in KL are generally 33%, 34% and 51% cheaper respectively.
- Basic food items
While it is difficult to put a general price on basic food items as certain countries have different basic food items, it is safe to say that basic food items in developed cities such as Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong are generally higher. The comparable basic food items are bread, rice, milk, eggs, poultry, vegetables and fruits. The surprising thing however is that KL also has generally cheaper basic food items in comparison with regional cities Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila.
It is not complete however, to be comparing the prices of services and items between countries without comparing the average wage received in each city. It is undeniable that wages in developed countries are generally higher compared with those of developing countries like Kuala Lumpur. Comparing the average wage in Kuala Lumpur with Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong, Malaysians typically earns about 67%, 61% and 60% lower respectively.
On a more comparable playing field, despite having cheaper housing, utilities and basic food items compared with regional cities Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila, wages in KL is on average 124%, 41% and 88% higher respectively. Overall, taking all things into consideration, Kuala Lumpur still ranks as the fourth cheapest city to live in Southeast Asia.
The data for comparison above was compiled from Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide. Numbeo provides current and timely information on world living conditions including cost of living, housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution.