The number of kindergartens in China has dropped for the first time in 15 years, falling by more than 5,000 on the previous year, financial news outlet Yicai reported, citing data from the country's Education Ministry.

Concerns about China’s shrinking population have prompted more than 20 recommendations by members of the country’s top political advisory body to boost birth rates, with experts saying some measures could help slow its population decline.

There were a total of 289,200 kindergartens nationwide in 2022, the Education Ministry said on Thursday. The fall compared to previous years was due to fewer students enrolled in the kindergartens, Yicai said.

The number of rural kindergartens is decreasing along with urbanisation as residents move to more urban cities, Yicai said.

Much of China's demographic downturn is the result of its one-child policy imposed between 1980 and 2015. Authorities raised the limit to three in 2021, but parents cite high childcare and education costs, low incomes, a feeble social safety net and gender inequalities, as discouraging factors.

China's birth rate last year fell to 6.77 births per 1,000 people, from 7.52 births in 2021, the lowest on record.

(Reporting by Farah Master and the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Christina Fincher)