But Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said there were benefits, too: Faced with labor shortages as workers age and retire, employers are increasingly willing to hire women and to invest in labor-saving technology.
Thanks to a low birth rate, Japan's population peaked in 2010. Kuroda said the shortage of workers hobbles economic growth. Slow growth pushes interest rates down and tempts banks to make riskier loans in a search for higher returns, "potentially making the financial system less stable."
In response to the labor crunch, Japanese firms have been hiring more women. Earlier at the Davos summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe boasted that a record 67 percent of Japanese women either work or are looking for work, compared to just over 57 percent in the United States. Japanese firms have also aggressively invested in robotics and other forms of automation, raising productivity that feeds economic growth.
True, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde interjected, but "you can't replace the entire Japanese population with robots."
World Bank chief Kristalina Georgieva urged the global elites to take a simple step to understand the urgency of combating climate change: "Get the picture of your children, your grandchildren in front of you."
Speaking on the last day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Georgieva warned that the potential "cost in terms of suffering is unmeasurable" if the world can't control a rise in temperatures.
She dismissed the idea that cutting emissions would hurt the economy, citing a study that found a rapid rise in temperatures could slash global economic output by 25 percent.
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said: "Rising temperatures will wipe out whole segments of economies."
The "new climate economy," by contrast, would create 65 million jobs, Georgieva said.