While the world wrestles with a deadly pandemic and how to confront climate change, there’s another, long-term global challenge that no one really knows how to deal with: Population aging. As the human race transitions from a burgeoning, exploding species to a static or shrinking one, economies around the world will come under significant strain.

Japan is the canary in the coal mine here. Although its birth rate is not as low as that of many other rich countries, it has been low for a longer time. That’s why Japan is now the world’s oldest major economy.

On one hand, Japan demonstrates why a shrinking population doesn’t automatically impoverish a country. Its population is slowly declining, and is back down to the level of two decades ago, yet the country’s income per capita has continued to rise as productivity grows and more women enter the workforce.