One in six Malaysians stressed out by work – Rose Ismail, New Straits Times.

New Straits Times. | KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 2004: Feeling tired, listless and dreading work? You are not alone. One in six working Malaysians in a nationwide poll says he is stressed out by work and, for almost as many, this is compounded by money problems. The poll, on how Malaysians balance work and life issues, also reveals that respondents in government service are least stressed and those at the other end of the scale are workers in sales and retail. Apart from work and money, other major causes of stress are health, children, parents and family. Interestingly, even though work is the biggest stress factor, employers and bosses only affect a small number of working Malaysians (five per cent).

This could be read in two ways: that people are generally uncomfortable talking about personal matters or, that stress is caused by several factors and not just work. To relieve stress, most Malaysians claim they try to relax or think positive thoughts. A substantial number seek comfort in family members. Women, especially, turn to friends, colleagues and bosses. Outside of the work environment, family outings are seen as stress-relievers for some people but only a small number (five per cent) see holidays as the answer to reduce stress. A probably explanation for this is that the poll, in reflecting the national census, has a wider band of respondents from the lower middle and working classes. For such groups, work is stoically accepted as the only way to make ends meet. More than 600 people were interviewed in the poll conducted by Merdeka Center, a social research organisation sponsored by the Friedrich Nauman Foundation.

Findings indicate that women are better able to ignore stress and that a small number of respondents deal with pressures by keeping to themselves or acquiring a “couldn’t-care- less” attitude. Prayers console some 12 per cent who are stressed out. As expected, sports is more a stress-reducer for men than women but the number of men who do turn to such activities (10 per cent) is surprisingly small. Unlike our Western counterparts, only one male respondent has turned to counselling to sort out his stress-related problems. Women are either reluctant to talk about it or do not see therapy as an option. Malaysians prefer more money to leisure Money, more than leisure time, will assure Malaysians a better quality of life.

Across almost all age groups and job sectors, this finding stands out prominently in a nationwide poll conducted last week. The emphasis given to money may explain why one in five people, as reported in today’s New Straits Times, has taken on additional work to supplement the family income. It could also be linked to the fact that one in 10 people consider his income inadequate and one in three say his wages are not enough to make ends meet. Yet, despite the preoccupation with money, all those interviewed said they were satisfied with what little free time they had for themselves and their families. Surprisingly, the quest for more money also crosses the retirement line with those above 55 indicating that money was more important than leisure time.

But, intriguingly, this trend is bucked by those between the ages of 50 and 55, people who are presumably tired of work and getting ready for retirement. Workers in the production, transport and labour sectors polled highest (64 per cent) in wanting money more than time but those in the professional, technical and managerial fields appeared slightly ambivalent about this. Although they noted the importance of money, a fair number wanted more time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Only teachers and lecturers valued time more than money, polling 51 per cent for time and 46 per cent for money. Coincidentally, teachers, professional and some government workers bring work to be completed at home. The poll of more than 600 people, conducted by Merdeka Center which has been tracking public opinion for three years, also revealed other interesting points about the Malaysian worker: * that most people are generally satisfied with their jobs and the hours spent at work; * that half the respondents work a 40-hour week and the other half, between 40 and 60 hours a week.

Yet, there appears to be a high level of job satisfaction among those who work long hours; * that most people find their working environment comfortable; * that two-thirds prefer staying in their jobs as opposed to job-hopping as a means to secure better pay; * that a large majority take pride in the work they do. A further breakdown of the findings also indicates that Malays are least likely to change jobs because they value permanency; the Chinese are more likely to change jobs in search of more pay; the better-educated are more confident about looking for jobs and better-paid people stay longer in their jobs. Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Center programme director said, overall findings show that Malaysians were reasonable, practical, able to cope with changing conditions and generally optimistic about life. “Tough as it may be for some of them, I do hear many say that life outside of Malaysia is more difficult. So, we should just try harder.”