Vital statistics and their subsequent analysis and interpretation are essential for setting targets and evaluating social and economic plans, including the monitoring of health and population intervention programmes, and the measurement of important demographic indicators of levels of living or quality of life, such as expectation of life at birth and the infant mortality rate. Social and economic sectors, including health, education, labour and employment, urban planning, finance and economic development, industry and trade, social insurance, environment, population, business, and commerce require solid and up-to-date statistics on levels and trends in fertility and mortality. The health sector depends on trustworthy data on levels, trends and causes of mortality to identify emerging health threats and high risk groups and provide the evidence base for selecting priority interventions and allocating resources.
Despite the importance of vital statistics, there is universal acknowledgement of the urgent need to improve their availability, timeliness and quality. With the view of strengthening technical capacity to contribute to the efforts in improving civil registration and vital statistics systems, UNSD aims to increase the knowledge of government statisticians, civil registration officials and other stakeholders about the international principles and recommendations for compiling, processing and disseminating vital statistics; and improve their capability in identifying gaps and challenges in applying international standards to improve their vital statistics system.
These activities originate in the UNSD mandate for training in civil registration and vital statistics, as per the International Programme for Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems, adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 1991.
Coverage of Birth and Death Registration
Monitoring the status of civil registration and vital statistics for countries in the world is the first step to provide guidance and assistance to those that are in need.
The work of the United Nations Statistics Division to assist countries in improving their civil registration and vital statistics systems started in 1949, following the recommendations by the Statistical Commission at that time. Progress has been made ever since in most countries.
There are still deficiencies, however, in civil registration systems in many countries until this date. For example, only 68% of the countries, territories and areas register at least 90% of births occurred. Furthermore, for death registration, only 55% of the countries, territories and areas have at least 90% coverage.
Source of information: Several sources are used to obtain the coverage of birth and death registration for more than 230 countries and areas. The primary source is the "Quality of vital statistics obtained from civil registration" page on the United Nations Demographic Yearbook Vital Statistics Questionnaire. Source of information also includes United Nations Statistics Division workshops that have been conducted in the past, when covearge information was obtained from country representative(s) either from the National Statistical Office or the Civil Registration Authority attending the workshop. When information is not available from these two sources, coverage information estimated by the International Institute for Vital Registration and Statistics (IIVRS), UNICEF (Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey), ICF Macro (Demographic and Health Survey) and/or the World Health Organisation is then used.
Last updated: December 2017
Note: The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Availability of vital statistics
The availability of reliable, up-to-date and continuous vital statistics depends on the level of development of civil registration systems. Vital statistics is not always available for all countries in the world. For some, basic birth and death statistics can only be obtained from population censuses and sample surveys, which tend to suffer from random errors, recalling errors, and lack of continuity.
The chart below shows the availability, completeness and data source of the total number of births and deaths for in the period 2009 - 2013, by region.
Last updated: August 2016
For up-to-date availability of live births and deaths statistics submitted by countries to UNSD, as well as the data source for obtaining those statistics, please visit UNData.
United Nations Legal Identity Agenda
Everyone has the right to be recognized as a person before the law, as enshrined in Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Several International human rights instruments, such as Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 24(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also recognized a right to birth registration.
Sustainable Development Goal Target 16.9 ("legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030") is key to advance the 2030 Agenda commitment to leave no one behind, and equally relevant is SDG 17.19 - support to statistical capacity-building in developing countries, monitored by the indicator "proportion of countries that have achieved 100 per cent birth registration and 80 per cent death registration".
In developing international mechanism for achieving these important SDG Targets, and inspired by the Secretary-General's determination to tackle the global problem of statelessness, the Secretary-General's Executive Committee, in January 2018, requested the DSG's office to "convene UN entities to develop, in collaboration with the World Bank Group, a common approach to the broader issues of registration and legal identity".
Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Group
The Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Group is a group of international and regional organizations coming together to forge stronger alliances in the area of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS). With growing recognition of the value of CRVS to human rights, good governance, and development planning, monitoring and evaluation, there has been renewed interest in strengthening national CRVS systems. CRVS is also emerging as an essential underpinning of the 2030 development agenda. The Group aims, among others, to strengthen national CRVS and related systems through coordination and collaboration on global and regional initiatives and exchange of information.
The initial (2014) terms of reference were revised by the Group in 2016 in order to better harness the strength of its Members and respond to current global demands (See original and current terms of reference).
This Knowledge Center documents and disseminates United Nations methodological guidelines, research articles and country practices and activities in the area of civil registration and vital statistics. It aims at facilitating the international exchange and sharing of knowledge and information, as well as provision of guidance to countries, and monitoring progress made on civil registration and vital statistics.
The Knowledge Center is a searchable database that contains documents on civil registration and vital statistics guidelines, demographic methods, and development of civil registration and vital statistics in various countries.
The technical report on status of civil registration and vital statistics systems describes country practices in registering vital events and producing vital statistics from various data sources.
The technical report features areas such as organisation of the civil registration system, organisation structure of the vital statistics system, status of civil registration and vital statistics system in the country, use of population censuses and sample surveys as sources of vital statistics and availability of vital statistics.
The major sources of data for the technical report is the proceedings of the United Nations Workshop on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, including the questionnaires completed by countries participants, the country presentations and status reports as well as the exchange of information between UNSD staff and country representatives during the workshop.
Other sources include technical reports, publications and websites on civil registration and vital statistics published by national civil registration authorities and national statistical offices.
Information on the availability of national vital statistics is obtained from the United Nations Demographic Yearbook data collection system.
The technical report prepared thus far is:
- CRVS Technical Report Series, Vol. 1. ESCWA Region (March 2009)
- CRVS Technical Report Series, Vol. 2. SADC Region (August 2010)
- CRVS Technical Report Series, Vol. 3. African English-speaking countries (June 2016)
Feasibility study to accelerate the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics
As part of the activities of the International Programme for Accelerating the Improvement of Vital Statistics and Civil Registration Systems, adopted in 1991 by the Statistical Commission, studies are carried out in selected countries to review and evaluate the feasibility of achieving the International Programme goals related to increasing the civil registration coverage, improving the quality and timeliness of information collected and consequently, generating and disseminating comprehensive and reliable vital statistics.
The study covered the following information: (1) demographic information in the country; (2) current status of civil registration and vital statistics system in the country â€“ in terms of the existing administrative infrastructure, legal framework, procedures for recording and transmitting information to Registrar General in the country, main obstacles and weaknesses and possible solutions; and (3) national strategy that would establish an accelerated and sustainable programme to improve the civil registration system in the country in short and medium term.
The study is published for three countries and available online for:
International Institute for Vital Registration and Statistics (IIVRS) Technical papers (Last updated: April 2014)
A collection of technical papers prepared by IIVRS, from late 1970s to end of 1990s. Go to individual pages for papers published in the corresponding period:
International Institute for Vital Registration and Statistics (IIVRS) Technical papers - 1970s
- 1. A Programme for Measurement of Life and Death in Ghana - 1979
- 2. Vital Statistics System of Japan - 1979
- 3. System of Identity Numbers in the Swedish Population Register - 1979
- 4. Vital Registration and Marriage in England and Wales - 1979
- 5. Civil Registration in the Republic of Argentina - 1979
International Institute for Vital Registration and Statistics (IIVRS) Technical papers - 1980s
- 6. Coordinating Role of National Committees on Vital Health Statistics - 1980
- 7. Human Rights and Registration of Vital Events - 1980
- 8. The Organization of the Civil Registration System of the United States - 1980
- 9. Organization of Civil Registration and Vital Stat System in India - 1980
- 10. Registration of Vital Events in Iraq - 1980
- 11. Generation of Vital Stattistics in Mexico - 1980
- 12. Age Estimation Committee in Qatar - 1980
- 13. The Development of the Vital Statistics System in Egypt - 1981
- 14. Vital Stat Data Collection and Compilation System: Hong Kong - 1981
- 15. Major Obstacles in Achieving Satisfactory Registration Practices and Vital Events and the Compilation Reliable Vital Statistics - 1981
- 16. Methods And Problems of Civil Registration Practices and Vital Stat Collection in Africa - 1981
- 17. Status of Civil Registration in El Salvador - 1982
- 18. Recommendations from Regional Conferences and Seminars on Cjvil Registration and Vital Statistics - 1982
- 19. Potentials of Records and Statistics from Civil Registration Systems for Health Administration and Research - 1982
- 20. Improving Civil Registration Systems in Developing Countries - 1982
- 21. Social Indicators Derived from Vital Stattistics - 1982
- 22. The Operation of Vital Stat System of the United States of America - 1983
- 23. Demographic Information from Vital Registration Offices in Mexico 1983 - 1983
- 24. General Description of Population Registration in Finland - 1983
- 25. The National Importance of Civil Registration and Urgency of its Adaptation to a Modern Society: Latin American - 1983
- 26. Study of a Civil Registration System of Birth and Death An Experiment in Afghanistan - 1983
- 27. Actions for the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics - 1983
- 28. Urgently Needed Reforms in Civil Registration in Asian Countries - 1986
- 29. Organization and Status of Civil Registration and Vital Stat in Various Countries of the World - 1986
- 30. The Status of Civil Registration and the Collection of Vital Stat Through Alternative Sources in Papua New Guinea - 1987
- 31. Organization and Status of Civil Registration in Africa and Recommendations for Improvement - 1988
- 32. Registration of Vital Events in the English Speaking Caribbean - 1988
- 33. Organization and Status of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Arab Countries - 1988
- 34. Recommendations from Regional Conferences and Seminars on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics: An Update - 1988
- 35. Health Data Issues for Primary Health Care Delivery System in Develping Countries - 1989
- 36. Considerations in the Organization of National Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems - 1989
- 37. Approaches to Data Collection on Fertility and Mortality for the Estimation of Vital Rates - 1989
- 38. Publicity Plans for Registration Promotion - 1989
International Institute for Vital Registration and Statistics (IIVRS) Technical papers - 1990s
- 39. Some Observations on Civil Registration in French-speaking Africa - 1990
- 40. Automation of Vital Registration Systems in the United States - 1990
- 41. The Development and Organization of Civil Registration in Sri Lanka - 1990
- 42. Computerization of the Indexes to the Statutory Registers of Births Deaths and Marriages in Scotland - 1990
- 43. Measurement of Birth and Death Registration Completeness - 1990
- 44. Reforms in the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System in Morocco - 1991
- 45. The Impact of Cause-of-Death Querying - 1991
- 46. Incomplete Registration of Births in Civil System: The Example of Ontario, Canada, 1900-1960 - 1991
- 47. The Vital Registration and Statistics Systems in Libya and Its Improvement - 1991
- 49. Completeness and Reliability of Birth and Death Notifications in Kuwait - 1992
- 50. Automation of Mortality Data Coding and Processing in the United States of America - 1992
- 51. Approaches to the Measurement of Childhood Mortality: A Comparative Review - 1992
- 53. Measurement of Adult Mortality in Less Developed Countries: a Comparative Review - 1993
- 54. Death Registration and Mortality Statistics in Colombia - 1993
- 55. Historical Development of Cause of Death Statistics - 1993
- 56. Correcting the Undercount of Maternal Mortality - 1993
- 57. Techniques for Evaluating Completeness of Death Reporting - 1994
- 58. Are Live and Stillbirths Comparable All Over Europe? Legal definitions and vital registration data processing - 1994
- 59. An Evaluation of Vital Registers as Sources of Data for Infant Mortality Rates in Cameroon - 1994
- 60. The Estimation of Fertility from Incomplete Birth Registration Data for Indian Towns and Cities - 1995
- 61. The Evaluation of the Completeness of Death Registration in the Presence of High Net Out-migration - the Case Example of Mauritius - 1995
- 62. The Evaluation of the Completeness of Death Registration in the Presence of High Net Out-migration - the Case Example of Mauritius - 1995
- 63. Organization of National Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems: An Update - 1995
- 64. Comparability of the Birth Certificate and 1988 Maternal and Infant Health Study - 1996
- 65. The Impact of Computerization on Population Registration in Sweden - 1996
- 66. The Civil Registration System in Denmark - 1996
- 67. Role of Technology in the Civil Registration Process - 1997
- 68. Comparability of the Death Certificate and the 1986 National Mortality Followback Survey - 1997
- 69. Organizational Structure for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems - 1997
- 70. Legal Aspects of Civil Registration in the Philippines - 1997
- 71. Estimating the Completeness of Under 5 Death Registration in Egypt - 1997
- 72. Registration of Births, Stillbirths and Infant Deaths in Jamaica - 1998