It was exactly a year ago, in January 2016, when the World Economic Forum released The Future of Jobs report that analyzed the possible impact of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” on global labor markets. The study stated that the global workforce needs to brace for significant churn in job roles, as “a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs” worldwide could be seen over the period 2015-2020. If you think that just factory / blue-collar workers need to worry about the advent of robots, the study also noted that two-thirds of this job loss could be “in routine white-collar office functions.” It’s just been a year since this study, and perhaps worryingly, a few key findings are already taking shape.
According to Japanese national daily The Manichi, Japanese insurance company Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is planning to lay off nearly 30% of its assessment department staff and replace them with an artificial intelligence (AI) system. The publication reports that in total, 34 people are likely to be made redundant by March 2017, and the company will spend “about 200 million yen” to install the AI system, “which is based on” IBM’s Watson. As for the benefits, the company estimates savings of about 140 million yen annually by trimming down staff, and improved efficiency in tasks such as reading medical certificates and other documents assessed to make payouts. While the authority to determine payouts will be retained with human staff, the system is expected to help scan for special clauses or oversights.
This is not the first instance of use of AI among Japanese business houses. Perhaps owing to its population demographics (largely ageing workforce), and being leaders in adoption of advanced futuristic tech, Japan has already implemented use of AI and robotics in its industries. The Manichi counts Dai-Ichi Life Insurance and Japan Post Insurance as other insurance companies that have already introduced AI systems, although there are no reports of staff cuts.