Japanese leaders and Japanese people generally are well aware of their nation’s demographic challenges. The population has begun to decline and the proportion of people of working age continues to decrease. The birthrate is well below replacement level. Japanese people are aging fast while life expectancy continues to increase. The implications for the Japanese economy and for Japan’s position in the world should be obvious.

Yet Japanese political and business leaders prefer not to discuss the long-term issues. Is this because these are too difficult? Or is it because they don’t think that there is much they can do to alter the likely course of events? Or is it that they are too preoccupied with the day-to-day problems that face them? Or do they say to themselves that these issues can be safely left to their successors? Or do they, like the 18th century mistress of King Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, simply say to themselves “apres nous le deluge” (after us comes the flood)?

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