CT RILEY takes a very simplistic view of Labour’s proposals to reduce working hours (HAS, Oct 31 & Nov 4).

There is no plan to impose a cap on weekly working hours, but rather a sector-by-sector strategy towards reducing the average working week over the next ten years, whilst ensuring no reduction in productivity.

Between 1860 and 1970, the average full-time working week fell from 65 hours to 43, but there has been no significant decline since, despite a new industrial revolution every bit as dramatic as the first, with spectacular developments in computing and robotics.

Overwork is a major problem. The Japanese endure some of the longest working hours in the world, with thousands dying every year from “karoshi” – a legally-recognised cause of death, meaning death by overwork. Yet Japan has the lowest productivity of all G-7 nations.

Overwork is a problem in Britain too, with around 15 million working days lost each year to work-related stress, anxiety and depression.

Many are overworked, while others are unemployed, or underemployed in low-paid, part-time or insecure jobs, or on zero-hours contracts.

Would it not make more sense to share fairly the available work, providing secure employment and decent wages?

Other countries are taking the lead. In Iceland, Reykjavik city council cut the working hours of some employees by 4 or 5 hours per week, and found no loss of productivity, no increased cost, fewer sick days, and better levels of job satisfaction and general well-being.

The decision by a company in New Zealand to cut the working week down to four days with no pay reduction resulted in a 20 per cent increase in productivity, increased profits, and a happier workforce.

Pete Winstanley, Durham.