SINGAPORE -- Consumer spending in the five major Southeast Asian countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore -- continues to expand. It reached around $1.17 trillion in 2013, 1.6% higher than a year ago.
The figure, calculated based on nominal gross domestic product, was nearly four times larger than the level in 2000 and around 40% of that of Japan.
Personal consumption in the five countries, which in 2000 stood at roughly $310 billion, started to shoot up around 2010, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The growth largely owes to the establishment of automobile and IT factories in those countries as a result of efforts to attract foreign manufacturers in the late 1990's. Those factories have increased the incomes of large swathes of the urban population.
According to the survey by the United Nations, the urban population in Southeast Asian nations reached approximately 261 million in 2010, a significant surge from roughly 200 million in 2000.
Stable incomes earned as factory and office workers shore up the robust spending. For example, 3.56 million new cars were sold in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam in 2013, almost double the 2009 figure.
Personal spending growth in Southeast Asian nations and the pressure to raise wages of the businesses operating there are quickly transforming those countries from exporters into consumers. Foreign companies, especially those in retail and food, are rushing to tap into the enormous markets.
In Indonesia, which has a population of more than 200 million, Japan's Ito En aims to sell tea beverages through a joint venture. Calbee plans to establish a joint venture that will produce snacks in the Philippines. Japan's retail giant Aeon currently operates 27 general merchandise supermarkets in Malaysia.