The Working Stress of Female Workers at Timber Processing Industry

The Working Stress of Female Workers at Timber Processing Industry in Bandar Lampung



At present, the use of stress terminology has been accepted widely in the study of human resources management. Fred Luthans defined stress as an adaptive response toward external situation resulted in physical psychological deviation and or changing of behavior among the members of an organization (1995). In this contact, stress is believed as the cause and all at once as the results of various factors found in a working environment. De Cenzo and Robbins (1999) stated “Work-related stress is brought about by both organizational and individual factors. ..these in turn are influenced by individual differences.” There fore stress will not happen instantaneously, instead it happen through a long process. It means, even though organizational and individual factors have the potential to evoke stress, but not always resulted in a high level one as there were different individual factors that will determine the level of stress experienced by any individual worker.

The impact evoked by the stress is not always negative. De Cenzo and Robbins (1999) stated that stress could be manifested both in negative and positive way. It is said to be positive if it could deliver a maximum performance. But if the stress hampered the performance, it is said as negative.

Negative stress could cause bad impacts both to the individual and organization (Dressler, 2000). Among the negative impacts there was the decrease of working performance, the emergence of physical disease, depression during the work and the decrease of organization productivity. And financially, the high level of stress experienced at the working site will increase the cost of medical treatment paid by the employer. This fact was experienced by PT. Pupuk Kujang Cikampek that should pay health claim at the amount to Rp. 1.479.715,148,00 in the year of 2002. And level of absent of 7% – 10% monthly. The same case also experienced by workers at the garment industry in Bandung. As pointed of by Meri and Madelina (1997) female workers at textile, garment ands stocking industry were experiencing various health problem, among others headache, badback, stomachache and irregular menstruation.

Discussion about working stress experienced by female workers becomes important as the total number of female workers who worked in the industrial sector in Lampung Province these day not less than 27,114 women or 40.30% of the total number of workers in industrial sector. We realize that the role played by a woman is heavier than the one played by male workers. At home woman is responsible for various house hold, children and husband problems. This burden will be heavier and heavier whenever a woman should play a double roles, both as a mother of household and as female worker.

Talking about female workers in industrial sector is talking about not so satisfying phenomenon. Female workers suffered from so many problems in this sector. Surveys carried out by Mari Pangestu and Madelina K. Hendytio in 1997 indicated that female workers were left behind in the cases of wage matters, health security an other rights. The existence of this phenomenon was supported by the research of Ferde Yusuf (1998) mentioning that the most prominent feature within the world of labor were a long working hour (12-14 hours a day), high monthly labor turn over (5%-7%) as well as very high daily absent (10%).

The existence of working stress among the female workers was also revealed by means of interviewing some of the female workers from different jobs. The existence of stress symptoms in working was indicated by the high frequency of suffering from headache, pain in he digestion, anxiety, feeling of suppressed and very high rate of absence. And there was even a tendency that they were absent 1-2 days in a month.

1.2. Problem Formulation of the Study

a. Problem Formulation

Based on the analysed problem background the formulation of the problem is a followed:

1.How is the working stress of the female workers at the Bandar Lampung wood processing industry?

2.What factors did influence the working stress of the female workers?

3.How was the control of female workers on wage matters at the Bandar Lampung wood processing industry?


a. The Working Stress Conduction of Female Workers at Timber Processing Industry

Results of the study indicated that working stress was experienced by all of the female workers. There were two things differentiated between a one female worker and the other. Firstly, there was a difference in the frequency in experiencing the disturbance. Secondly, not all of them experienced the same kind of disturbance. For example, there was a worker who has a tendency of having more of physical disturbance like ail (be ailing or be sickly) rather than having psychological disturbance. It appears that there was no relationship between the intensity of stress impact among the female workers with age, working experience and the number of family burden. The results of the study indicated that there was no significant relationship between those variables with the stress experienced by the female workers.

Although there were some cases but statistical tests did not support this tendency. This case is different with the finding of De Cenzo and Robbins who stated that working experiences, perception, social support and the level of hostility are variables, that could reign the level of stress experienced. As an example, workers with the same working burden would not necessarily experience the same level of disturbance. In this case, the worker who has more working experience less pressure compare to her inexperienced counterpart.

Condition of Physical Health

It appears that according to the results of the study, 88,62% of the female workers working at the timber processing industry experienced physical health disturbance. The form of the disturbance were ranging from headache, stomach upset (digestion disturbance), heart disease, whirling or dizzy and irregular menstruation. There were 68,8% female workers with digestion disturbance. This disturbance was in the form of stomach disorder, slight stomach upset, or other kind of disturbances. According to one of the female workers, they will experience stomach upset whenever the supervisor scolded them.

From the results it appears that 99.1% of the female workers had had bad headache as the result of the stress. Although all of the female workers ever suffered from bad headache but none of them has to be treated or hospitalized and stopped working. To overcome the headache usually they consumed duty-free-medicine such as paramex, panadol, etc. The same situation also valid for the other diseases. To most of the female workers, headache, stomach upset, dizziness, etc, are supposed to be a customary or normal thing and there is no relation with their job.

The Condition of Psychological

There are some methods to find out whether or not a female worker is really experiencing a stress at work, namely by applying mental health test through psychological test and observe the physical, psychological symptoms and the changing of behavior. In this study the method used was observing the symptoms among the female workers. Psychological disturbance experienced by a female worker who is experiencing working stress are difficulty to sleep (insomnia), feeling worry at work, feeling of under pressure at work, and losing of concentration at work. According to the result of the study, it appear that 86.64% of the female workers were experiencing this kind of disturbance. The form of the most frequent psychological disturbance experienced was feeling of worried at work. This feeling was related to the persistence working relationship between workers and employer that quite often threaten to lay off the workers if the she could not fulfill production target. According to same female workers threaten to lay off also come from supervisors, the supervisors use this threatening words if there is worker who had been working too slowly or to take rest too often during the working hours. This threat really alarmed the workers because their life’s burden are very heavy. Nevertheless they have to go on working to meet their need and their family.

Surprisingly is that there were 73.3% of the female workers suffered from insomnia and 14.7% of those suffered insomnia very often. Thus it was almost certain that the working burden or some events or incidents at the work site have loaded on them and been brought home. This is really not a good condition for married workers and workers with children. Working problems that brought home and made them to be difficult to sleep usually could trigger other problems or incident such as loosening her relationship with the husband and children or even evoke physical disease as the consequence of excessive fatigue or wearness due to lack of resting.

If we look at it further apparently various working burden and living burden have seized much of the attention of female workers so that it is difficult for them to classify or to sort between working problems and the household problems. The disability to classify the various problems gave impact of losing concentration of the female workers at work. Some of the female workers admitted that they once experiencing working accident due to lost of concentration during working.

The Change of Behavior

The existence of working stress among the woman workers can also be detected from the changing of their behavior. Female workers become taciturn suddenly, easily offended or sensitive, or showing unusual or abnormal behavior appear to be a sign that they are experiencing pressure. The study showed 88,8% of the female workers experiencing changing of behavior in the form of easily offended or sensitive and 84,5% feeling depressed or melancholy at work. Some of the interviewed workers admitted that the changing of behavior has happened without their awareness. Usually such a behavior will change along with the disappearance of the problem they are facing. Meaning the greater the problem the longer the period of recovery.

From the result of observation on female workers at wood processing industry it showed that none of the changing of behavior pushed them to execute undersured due. Some slight prominent behavior changing pushed them to be in a quarrel as the consequence of their disability to overcome the dispute.

b. Factors that caused Working Stress among the Female Workers at the Wood Processing Industry

Demand of Tasks

The results of this study indicated that working burden is the most important causal factor of stress experienced by the female workers. This factor is closely related to the kind of work, the length of the working hours and the time of working. As mentioned previously, the work that should be completed by a worker of the timber processing industry is really a quite heavy job. Information gained from some worker stated that every division or part of the factory has been loaded with a production target on daily basis. It means workers of a certain division should keep on working until the daily target is attained and will stop whenever the target has been fulfilled. So, it is not surprising if they have the shortest working hours of 8 hours a day or at the minimum 48 hours a week. Such a working hours is really not a short working hours. Especially if it increased to 10 or 11 hours a day. Such a working hours is really not a high burden for a female worker especially for married woman with children.

Another indicator that could also evoke stress among female workers was the absence of autonomy and feed back of the working product. There were 93,1% and 87,1% female workers who felt depressed due to the absence of autonomy means that it is forbidden for the workers to make a regulation and working system that be based on their skills. All jobs should be completed conform with prior procedure and target decided previously. The same case also happen with feed back, the female workers felt that they did not get satisfactory feedback as the evaluation on their work (product). They do hope that the production of their work to be evaluated and this evaluation will be provided to them. Although the consequence of good evaluation on the product is the converment of a reward, but for the female workers at the timber processing industry the existence of praise or eulogy from the senior or employer was the hope they were waiting for as the acknowledgment on their achievement. So far, the acknowledgment on the achievement was provided through the wages without considering how long a worker already in the service. For some of the workers it is not fair because years of their experiences was treated alike with those who just some months in service.

From the interview with some of the workers it appears that they have to work with tools and equipment whatever there is or with broken tools and equipment so that they have to wait for repairing of them. This is, of course, could become an important source of working stress because they have to chase a fixed target.

Demand of Role

In this study, role is supposed to be a set of behavior that should be performed as a consequence of the work. In this case, as an individual a worker should behave as someone who has a wish and hope that should be fulfilled through working. But on the other side, a worker is a subordinate who has to pay attention to and carry out many tasks which sometimes be in contradiction with or overlap with her interest or even evoke confusion to the worker herself.

The result of this study indicated that demand of role that consisted of role conflict, overload role and ambiguity role constitute an indicator that could evoke working stress on the female workers working at timber processing industry.

Demand of Interpersonal Relationship

Based on the results of the study there were 89.25% female workers suffered from pressure due to poor interpersonal relationship at work. The poor interpersonal relationship could be seen from the absence of openness, absence of attention, no support, discriminative treatment, poor interaction with working partners and feeling of being insulted experience by female workers.

The highest pressure experienced by the female workers was the absence of openness between superior, worker, and working partner. The growing fact was that both superior and working colleague. Most of the worker felt that it is not necessary for them to be open with other working colleagues, especially in relation with personal matters. Therefore the growing relationship was formal interaction which was not intimate and less friendly. This case was enforced by the absence of empathy from the superior and working colleague for the problem faced by worker. This indicated that individualistic urban way of life begin to attack workers who some of them precisely come from various suburb of Bandar Lampung. This individualistic attitude was closely related to the need of continuing the working relationship with the business, because if there was a working colleague struck down with problem then the opportunity for them to hold out will increase.

The lack of support from the superior was reflected from the level of wage which was not so high whereas in fact they were already in service of 8 to 11 hours a day and sometimes have to work in the night shift. If such attitude of the superior would be permanently there it could be ascertained that the fate of the female workers will be constantly disrespected by the business. Logically if a woman is willing to become a worker at one of the timber processing industry it means that economically the life of this woman will be very apprehensive. Therefore they will take whatever in order to fulfill their living requirement and their family requirement even though they will be paid poorly by the business.

The result of the study also indicated that the female workers working at the timber processing industry were experiencing discriminative treatment could be seen from the level of wages that at the average female wages was lower than male wages, or it could also be seen from the opportunity to be n a higher position such as a position of a superior, etc. From here it could be seen that the difference between female and male is a classical problem that remain being kept constantly for various interests on objectives. One of the objectives was an effort to keep the female workers remain under control and be willing to be paid with low wages.

Poor relationship at work was apparently due to the appearance of male working colleagues at work. At the amount of 88.8% of female workers were under pressure from the poor relationship with their male counterpart. Male workers have bad view on female workers and there was a tendency hat man like to insult them. The insulting act can be categorized into two classes:

1)Indirect act of insulting like mentioning dirty words, or deliberately invite female worker to talk related things.

2)Direct act of insulting like tempting or teasing, hold on her or the other improper act by a man to a woman.

The opportunity of insulting female workers to happen was really opened as there was a physical examination procedure on workers before and after working hour. This procedure was put into effect by the employer to prevent workers from bringing out articles belong to the factory.

Organization Structure

The results of the study indicated that the many burden placed on them was one of the cause of working stress among the female workers. There were 96,6% of the female workers who stated that the working burden made them to experience stress. Organization structure gave quite great contribution to the stress experienced by female workers. The unfair wage system, discriminative policy ad the absence of involvement in the control of decisions were some organization structure indicators that evoke stress among female workers. And it was indeed so as stated by one of the female workers, they are rarely be involved in the decision making and there are many regulations that should be carried out and did not provide them any competence in working.

Organization Leadership

Leadership appears to be the product of interaction between superior and subordinates in various situation, both in working and outside the working situations. This interaction will produce either like or dislike opinion or feeling. Effective leadership will follows if the interaction between superiors an subordinates took place satisfyingly.

In the context of interaction between female workers and their superior, satisfied feeling on the attitude and behavior of the superiors would evoke peaceful feeling, increase working desire and worker’s motivation to work better. On the contrary, if the interaction took place unsatisfyingly than what would evoke will be a strained feeling, fear and stress at work. Satisfying superior is a person who can be seen (met) easily, is helpful, willing to hear the problems faced by his/her subordinates, willing to accept and act fair and equitable to all of the subordinates.

According to the results of the study it is 95,7% of female workers suffered from pressure due the attitude of the superior which did not give any attention to them. It means that the attitude that shown by the superior, in this case the superiors, has evoked pressure to the workers so that they felt uncomfortable at work. Especially most of the supervisors always say something threatening to dismiss lazy workers, etc.

In general, description about their superiors (supervisors) mentioned by the female workers was namely: difficult to be met or to be seen by the female workers or even they felt it is not necessary for them to see the workers except during the working hours, not willing to help whenever the worker is experiencing difficulty or trouble, especially outside the working hour, not willing to listen to worker’s problems, or even not willing to listen to worker’s complaint or reasons from the workers, not willing to listen to the suggestion from the workers and wanting to be the only winner, could not treat the worker fairly.

Family Problems

In general it is difficult for the female workers to release herself from personal and family’s problem at the time they are at work. They are so sensitive to household problems that whatever the problems they are facing at home will always be taken along accidentally to work.

Other than problem with husband, other indicator that could evoke stress among female workers was the condition and the behavior of the children. It is quite often they have had to go to work in a worried condition because the children were sick or various problem caused by her child in the social association loss of control on the children is the direct impact from a household mother who involved in seeking a living. Compare to the poor relationship with the husband then the various problems which related to the children, evidently gave more burden to the female workers at work. From here, we could see the portrait of a female worker as a woman that should be strong due to the various roles she should play is not always run smoothly.Economic Problems

Worker who is facing economic problem, not necessary means that the amount of money she got is too little but ore to the fulfillment of hope in the financial problem. Someone will be happy in doing work even though he receive payment just a little money. On the contrary, someone who receive even a big amount of money will never be satisfied because all the hopes he received. Therefore, nominally, the amount of money as wages for someone is very relative and will not directly related to the stress they experienced at work.

Results of the study indicated that 85.3% of the female workers felt the pressure due to economic problems they are experiencing. The economic problem meant were the requirement for house rent, cost for food, children education allowances and other problems such as debt installment, etc. The highest pressure due to economic problem was on the children education allowance which is increasing more and more difficult attain.

While the second indicator that also evoked working stress, was the house rent which is always increasing. This is happening because most of the workers have not own a house of themselves or still live at factory’s residence. Some married female workers have to lease house at the surrounding of the factory in order to meet the regulation of the factory (employer) with the consequence has to leave family and children all along the day time or all along the night time.

Other financial problem faced by female workers was that most of them have debt installment that should be paid from the wage they received. There 85,3% female workers twisted by debt and have to pay the installment. It will be more difficult as the received wage was not so big enough and then what was really happened; settled the debt in one place and make a new one in another (dig a hole and pile the hole).

Another indicator that also evoked stress experienced by the female workers was the daily cost of living. Especially after the increase of BBM (refined fuel oil) price, then the increase of food price could not be compensated by the level of the present wages. The only possible solution was reducing the frequency of meal time from three times a day to twiced a day with whatever side dish (dish served with rice) there is.

Based on the results of the study’s data and using factor analysis, all of the stress evoked factors described previously were analyzed on the basis of indicators that constituted them and the indicators were later categorized into dominant factors which significantly evoked stress among the female workers working at the timber processing industry, namely:

1.Working design2.Physical environment and the attitude of the supervisors3.Working equipment and tools and the demand on role4.Formality5.Working relationship6.Regulations and interests outside the work7.The family8.The discriminative treatment

The Influence of Dominant Factors on the Working Stress of Female Workers

From the results of statistical tests it was shown that dominant factors influenced the working stress experienced by female workers. It was also shown that working design has a negative relationship with working stress. Meaning, that there was a tendency that the lower the level of autonomy and the involvement of the workers in decision making, the higher the level of stress on female workers at work.

Both partially and simultaneously this dominant factors influenced the level of stress experienced by female workers at work. The impact due to the existence of dominant factors was the emergence of both physiological and psychological disease and the changing of behavior among the female workers. Some of the physical diseases contracted were stomach upset and headache. While psychological diseases that contracted very often were the emergence of worried feeling and disappearance of concentration during working that potentially end up in a working accident. Although the changing of behavior among the female workers was still in the safe category, this case need attention because it could trigger a conflict at the working site.

From the study results it was also realized that the stress experienced by the female workers has an impact on their weak control to family’s economic resources such as a progressive wage policy.Female Workers Control an Wage Matters Policy

Various facts in the field indicated that female workers were in the weak position and have no bargaining power on the business management. The low level of wages, discrimination and poor working condition are evidences that female workers as a production too were being systematically and measurally infected loss.

They made female workers weakness as reason to operate or to use them for profit so that let alone to give control to the wages policy, noting else then to control the family economic resources they could not do it.

The weak control of the female workers are generally due to individual and environmental factors. Individually, female workers working timber processing industry is a woman who intentionally left the house due to economic pushing. Disability of a husband or the head of the family to fulfill or to meet the need of the family became a reason for the female worker to work outside the house. Through working, a female was hoped to help family economy and all at once to have stronger control on the family resources including the use.

Direct impact of the involvement of female to earn family living was their weak control on the children and lack of attention received by the children from their parents. This is because the long working hour and sometimes must also take night shift. The lack of support from the condition of the dwelling make the behavior of the children uncontrollable. The various condition of the dwelling strong enough to evoke stress om the female at work.

The high economic motive make woman willing to work as factory laborer with wages decided before hand by the company. They accepted every treatment without any power or capacity to oppose. Once again, this economic motive that had been exploited the company to push wages, to decide high working hour standard and various other working regulation that did not take side with the female workers. In one side female working hour was equal to male’s but they are different in wages. The great number of woman that entered into human power market without sufficient skill accompany to trigger the exploitation of female.

With various family and working site conditions as its background, the female workers are very potential to suffer from working stress. With this working stress condition it is very impossible for them to make more beneficial bargaining with the company. Our human power system has been systematically established and female laborers are inside the system as a party that intentionally being weakened.

Various woman laborer movement partially incapable to change the laborer-employer relationship system. Psychological contract that become the beginning of industrial relationship had been intentionally be broken for the interest of the employer. Systematically, the female workers have been made powerless so that they have no chance to initiate correction on employer policy. That is why it is obvious that female laborers have not enough control on the wages matter policy and working conditions.

Conclusions and Suggestions


1. Generally it has been proven that female workers working at timber processing industry were experiencing working stress 2. There were 8 factors, that evoked working stress on the female workers working stress on the female workers working at timber processing industry which further be called as dominant, namely: working design, physical working environment and superior’s attitude, working equipment and tools and role demand, formality, working relationship, regulation and interests outside the worksite, family, and discriminative treatments. 3. As the consequence of these various dominant factors, the control by female workers on wages matter policy become weak.


1. The necessity to have female worker movement that can systematically and organisedly give advocacy to the female workers in general. This can be attained through establishing woman labor union as a reaction to the impotence of the company’s labor union to protect the interest of woman laborers. 2. Be consistent in the implementation of the labor’s law that obviously remove any farm of discrimination completely 3. The purpose of opening access for the female laborer that will do autonomous effort to be able to contribute something greater to the family.