Business & Economy


Manila is Southeast Asia’s third most expensive city to live in – just behind Singapore and Bangkok. Need to take a second to let that sink in? It came as no surprise, though, given almost everything in the nation’s capital seems to have exorbitant cost. But what’s surprising, perhaps, is that the city also recorded the lowest average earnings for the working class.

Finding answers to many questions that start with how and why would point you to several factors and key contributors. For the benefit of not overloading our brains with numbers, statistics, and economics, we will just talk about one aspect – wages. Probably the most important in determining the cost of living.

First world expense, third world quality

Most people would consider going to the city in the hopes of getting better opportunities. Hoping to get high-paying jobs. But in a 2021 research by iPrice and Numbeo, e-commerce aggregators, we see an apparent disconnect regarding the comfort living of people residing in the city. Manila’s average salary is only at P18,900 a month. The average monthly cost of living is at P50,800 for a single person, including rent, and P28,800 without rent.

By simply looking at these numbers, one could only wonder about the state of living of Manila residents.

Ideally, one should only spend 30% of gross income on rent. A good percentage of the working class who are renting would resort to bed spacing or condo-sharing. While this may be a good setup in mitigating costs, it does not change the fact that the average salary in the Philippines, not just in Manila, is not competitive enough to sustain a person to live comfortably.

One could get a job that pays the rent, but rent isn’t the only thing we worry about. Utilities are also expensive, and food prices continue to fluctuate. If you are one of those who have the option to book a personal ride, even that would cost you a few hundred bucks back and forth in exchange for getting spared from long lines to catch a train or jeepney ride. 

So, what keeps us going?

Photo from ABS-CBN News

Resiliency? I think not. But if we are to let out this overly used and often misused term loosely, I’d say we are resilient by force. It is never a choice. Choice is afforded to people with fail-safes, safety nets, or switch buttons when their world starts spinning uncontrollably. Choice is when we take risks despite knowing our odds in living comfortably.

If there is one thing that can be said about this kind of living, it’s the importance of understanding that nothing in life is easy. Whether you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or not, things can and will be difficult. Discomfort is part of life – it will never leave us even to our last breath. Learning to live with it and aspiring for a comfortable life anyway is resiliency.



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