The government's latest estimate that Japan could lose 20 percent of its workforce by 2040 due to the aging and declining population once again underlines the need for efforts to bring more women and the elderly into the labor market to sustain our economy. It also reminds us that we must explore ways to boost the nation's output that don't depend on manpower.

According to the estimate released by a study group at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the workforce will fall from 65.3 million in 2017 to 60.82 million in 2025 and 52.45 million in 2040, based on a scenario there will be zero economic growth and no progress in labor participation by women and the elderly.

The forecast does not take into account the impact of the amended immigration control law that, beginning this April, opens the door wider to foreign workers to make up for the domestic manpower shortage. The government expects to accept up to 345,000 workers from overseas in the first five years. However, the magnitude of the anticipated workforce decline — up to 12.85 million from 2017 to 2040 — looks too large to be covered by just bringing in laborers from abroad.