MUFG Bank, the banking unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., plans to slash its domestic workforce by around 8,000 employees by March 2024, expanding from its earlier planned reduction of 6,000, a source close to the matter said Sunday.

The bank will implement the increased labor force reduction, equal to 20 percent of its some 40,000 employees as of fiscal 2017, through natural attrition. It expects to see retirements of workers who were hired in large numbers during Japan's asset-inflating bubble economy of the late 1980s, and also plans to cut back on hiring.

MUFG Bank aims to step up structural reforms in the face of a difficult business environment with the Bank of Japan's prolonged monetary easing policy, which has squeezed profitability in the bank sector. Competition is also intensifying with startup companies using fintech.

The bank initially aimed to cut workload equivalent to 9,500 employees by promoting the introduction of artificial intelligence, but it is now looking to reduce it equivalent to more than 10,000 workers.

MUFG Bank will also look to boost its scaling back of domestic branches from the current plan, under which it sought to cut the number by 35 percent by the end of March 2024 from 515 as of the end of March 2018.

The number of branches offering full banking services will be slashed to about one-third, compared with the earlier plan of halving the size, as the bank is seeking to offer more online services.

The bank is also planning to increase the number of branches that will specialize in certain services, such as asset management advisory.

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