Notater 2014/41

Status Analysis on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS)

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The Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) agenda has a wide scope. It covers the registration of vital events, like births, marriages and deaths, and the use of this to produce statistics. The registration often has immediate benefits for the persons who are registered, by giving them an identity and the right to public services. It is also useful for the government as a basis for evidence-based policy and planning and, when sufficiently good, CRVS is a means to keeping track of inhabitants, such as potential tax payers.

Registration of vital events provides a powerful source for producing statistics, as the collected data can give more detailed evidence on sub-national areas than it is possible to obtain from sample surveys, and more frequently than population censuses can do. This is crucial for national policy-making, like identifying the needs for investments in infrastructure, setting priorities in the education and health sectors, and for ownership of land.

The registration and use of vital events may be conducted at different levels of complexity and with increasing levels of ambition, resource use and benefits to government and individuals. Additional levels of complexity include registration of non-traditional vital events (marriages, internal and external migration), computerizing the CR data in a data base, introducing personal identification numbers, and establishing a comprehensive population register. Even the most advanced solutions have become more feasible with the development of modern technology such as computers, smart mobile phones and internet.

Developing CRVS requires cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders. To achieve this, it is necessary to have the political will to establish a uniform system. Furthermore, practical challenges such as to increase the coverage, digitise the registers and link the systems, have to be addressed. The full value of CRVS first becomes apparent when registers are used for public administration and contribute to planning.

Countries have different motives for engaging in CRVS, such as security concerns, increasing tax revenue, modernise banking, improving public services to the residents (health, education, pensions, etc.), and strengthening human rights by providing birth certificates to everybody with name, date of birth, citizenship, etc. Thus, CRVS may serve many purposes and is often seen as an important part in building a modern society.

The point of entry of this document is to learn from what has already been done in many countries in the world, including Norway, Albania, Kazakhstan and Mozambique, and to present and discuss good practices to facilitate the process for countries embarking on a CRVS development process. The population of a country needs to know how to register vital events and appreciate the benefits from doing it.

It is essential that CRVS systems respect data confidentiality and human rights and that legislation is developed to avoid misuse of data on individuals and groups.

The report also describes the specific role that potentially can be played by national statistical offices in CRVS development, both in building and maintaining registers as well as producing and disseminating data from the system.

The document ends by suggesting how Statistics Norway can contribute to the development of CRVS internationally and in individual countries. The core of this is to build on practical experiences from the development of CRVS in Norway and other countries, to create a basis for sustainable practices in developing countries.

Authors: Vibeke Oestreich Nielsen, Helge Brunborg, Vebjørn Aalandslid, Dag Roll-Hansen and Coen Hendriks

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