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(File pic) A family member helping to get groceries at a Giant Hypermarket for the Prihatin Kasih programme’s beneficiaries in the disabled category. — KK SHAM/The Star

SOARING cost of living in this country has become increasingly worrisome among Malaysians.To sustain an assured standard of living, Malaysians need to have a stable income that, at least, could provide them with enough money to cover their essential expenses like accommodation, health services and public transportation.

What is cost of living? It is the amount of money an individual needs to maintain his or her standard of living. Housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes, entertainment, equipment, and education costs are just some of the basic expenses included in the cost of living.

How is the cost of living calculated? It is calculated by comparing the prices of a range of goods and services on which consumers spend their money. Costs are broken down by category, like healthcare, food, and housing, and weighted based on spending patterns and individual budgets.

In 2020, Malaysia reported an additional of 12.5% of households with income of less than RM2,500. Looking at the M40 group with income of between RM4,850 and RM10,959, about 20% has moved to the B40 group. The rich or those in the T20 group were also affected from this pandemic where 12.8% has shifted to the M40 group.

And the number of poor households rose to 639,800 in 2020 from 405,400 households in 2019. Absolute poverty increased from 5.6% in 2019 to 8.4%. The number of hardcore poverty rose from 0.4% or 27.2 thousand households in 2019 to 1% which involved 78,000 households.

With the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and many households have shifted from the higher income group to the lower income group, causing severe financial pain due to this pandemic. And to make matters worse, living cost is on the rise caused by multiple factors. For instance, the higher business cost driven by the rise in material prices are transmitted to the end consumers.

Other factors are a rise in average food prices, housing, power, water, groceries, clothing, healthcare, education, and gas.

And even if Malaysia can provide cheap rent and bargain prices on food, it could be pricey in other areas.

High taxes, low wages and above-average transportation costs can all contribute to a high cost of living for residents. So, this makes it difficult, especially for the low and middle-income groups, to make ends meet. To worsen the situation, the cost of living varies amongst different households or income groups.

It clearly shows there is a strong disconnect between consumer price (CPI) inflation against the rising cost of living.

For example, our CPI does not include costs that have a high investment component, such as the cost of buying a home. Property prices have risen rapidly in Malaysia in the last few years. But it is not captured in the CPI.