Registration of birth becomes more likely as a child grows older. Data show that in about half the countries where less than 50 per cent of children have been registered, birth registration levels are generally higher among older children. In the remaining countries, no significant differences are observed by age.
Striking differences are found in countries including Angola, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Nepal, where four-year-old children are more than twice as likely to have their births registered than infants under a year old. This tendency towards higher levels of birth registration among older children may be due to the fact that, in certain contexts, the lack of a birth certificate prevents them from accessing education or health services, which may, in turn, increase demand for birth registration as children mature.
Here it is important to remember that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Statistics Division principles clearly advocate registration immediately after birth. The value that individuals and families place on registering a child is equally important, along with the barriers they may face in doing so. These can include costs related to registration fees, travel to registration facilities and time. In other countries, the majority of mothers appear to be aware of the registration process, which points to other barriers to birth registration.
Based on MICS, National income per capita is an important variable that can help explain the existence of a functioning civil registration system within a country. As a general rule, the timely and complete registration of vital events, including birth records, improves with economic development. Unusually high or low rates for a given level of national income suggest that other factors may be influencing the level of birth registration. For example, island countries tend to show relatively good registration rates because of the importance of communication with and travel to the outside world; hence, systems for the issuance of identity and travel documents tend to be regarded as priorities.
In a few exceptional cases, countries with an income above this level have low registration rates. In other words, a country can realize a high birth registration rate even with low per capita income. Regional estimates suggest that birth registration rates among girls and boys are very similar and that gender parity in birth registration is found in almost all countries with available data. The children most affected by these inequities are described below.
Ethnicity can affect birth registration levels in other ways since, in some countries, minority groups are more likely to live in remote areas where birth registration services are either lacking or difficult to access. Disparities among ethnic groups are even more pronounced in other countries, such as the Central African Republic.
Significant disparities in birth registration levels can also be observed among children of different religious In Chad, for example, birth registration rates among children from Muslim and Christian Protestant or Catholic families are similar to the national average between 15 per cent and 17 per cent , while children from religious minorities are significantly less likely to be registered.
The opposite can be observed in other countries. In India, for instance, the lowest levels of birth registration are found among children from the two largest population groups — Hindus and Muslims. Children from religious minorities, such as the Sikhs and Jains, are about twice as likely to be registered.
Accessibility is influenced by location and terrain, existing infrastructure and the availability of transportation. The greater the distance to the registration centre, the higher the financial and opportunity costs for the family. Urban populations are less subject to such constraints, as confirmed by the differences in urban and rural registration rates for almost all regions.
Globally, children living in urban areas are one and a half times more likely to be registered than their rural counterparts. Most countries in that region have similar birth registration rates in rural and urban areas, making it the only region in which no disparities in registration levels based on place of residence are found.
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Countries in other regions present striking differences, with rural children at a distinct disadvantage. In Chad, for instance, where the national birth registration rate is 16 per cent, 42 per cent of urban children are registered compared to 9 per cent of rural children. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the proportion of urban children who are registered is more than four times higher than their rural peers. In most countries, higher levels of birth registration can be observed around the capital and other cities, with a clear decrease in registration further away from major population centres.
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However, in a few countries, areas far from the capital have very high registration rates as a result of targeted birth registration programmes, including those involving mobile registration units in particular provinces. In the Middle East and North Africa, 94 per cent of children in the richest quintile are registered compared to 76 per cent in the poorest quintile. Again, as birth registration levels increase at the national level, disparities in registration according to wealth decrease.
In almost all the countries with data, richer children are more likely to be registered, confirming that poverty is associated with low levels of birth registration. In the United Republic of Tanzania, for instance, only 4 per cent of the poorest quintile of children are registered, compared to 56 per cent in the richest quintile.
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This applies to birth registration as well. Mothers with some schooling are more likely to know how to register a child than their uneducated peers, and the proportion of registered children is highest among those whose mothers have a secondary education. In Nigeria, for example, data show that 21 per cent of children whose mothers have no education, 42 per cent of children whose mothers have a primary education, and 67 per cent of children whose mothers have a secondary education are registered.
The disparities persist even as national levels of birth registration rise. In Cameroon, where 61 per cent of children under five are registered, children whose mothers have a primary education are more than twice as likely to be registered as those whose mothers are uneducated. While associations may be found, care must be taken in interpreting them, since they may be due to the confounding influence of certain unknown or correlated variables.
Children of more educated women, for example, are also more likely to be living in urban areas or in wealthier households. Children of certain religious groups can have different birth registration levels as a result of differences in wealth that are associated with different religious communities. Nevertheless, this analysis provides a useful starting point for understanding whether certain socio-demographic characteristics may be related to a higher demand for birth registration or greater access to registration facilities.
Data coverage was insufficient to calculate regional estimates by sex for East Asia and the Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean. The estimates presented in this figure cannot be compared with the regional and global estimates presented in previous figures since they are based on a subset of countries with available data. Their sole purpose is to illustrate differentials.
Gender parity in birth registration appears to be the norm in almost all countries Ratio of children under age five whose births are registered, by sex boys over girls 1. A ratio of 1. Countries with very low prevalence levels have been excluded since data bear some level of uncertainty that would affect the significance of the ratio. Source: National Family Health Survey, Data coverage was insufficient to calculate regional estimates by place of residence for East Asia and the Pacific. In some countries, children living in urban areas are up to six times more likely to be registered Ratio of children under age five whose births are registered, by place of residence urban over rural 6.
Data coverage was insufficient to calculate regional estimates by household wealth quintiles for East Asia and the Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean. However, it is only since the late s that the international community has stepped up efforts to promote it. Since , and especially since , action to increase birth registration levels has intensified with the support of many partners, including governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, religious and other civil society groups, and local communities.
Some of the strategies adopted rely on linking birth registration to the delivery of health services, while others are based on innovative approaches, including the use of mobile technologies to record births.
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More systemic approaches are introducing legislative reforms and supporting the creation or strengthening of civil registration systems. Due to the lack of comparable trend data for some countries, the results of these efforts cannot yet be fully assessed. However, as more statistics become available over the coming years, a clearer picture should emerge. In the meantime, an analysis of the current data reveals patterns that allow us to draw general 30 conclusions about trends and challenges to date.
Overall, some progress, albeit small, has been achieved in raising birth registration levels.
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Globally, between around and , the proportion of children under five whose birth is registered has grown from 58 per cent to 65 per cent. A much sharper rise in the proportion of registered children has been recorded in the least developed countries, where birth registration levels have increased by more than 30 per cent. Progress has been uneven across countries, however, and is mainly driven by the achievements of a small subset of countries.
Over the same period , the global number of unregistered children has decreased by almost 30 million.
Faster progress in raising birth registration rates is needed, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, to keep pace with a growing population. If current levels persist, the number of unregistered children in Eastern and Southern Africa, currently 44 million, will rise to 55 million by , and will almost double in West and Central Africa. In Viet Nam today, about 95 per cent of children under five are registered, compared to 73 per cent in The period from to focused on legal reform resulting in the Law on Child Protection, Care and Education , awareness-raising, capacity-building and the strengthening of birth registration mechanisms.
These long-term efforts contributed to the registration of 88 per cent of children under five by , and the following year, the Government of Viet Nam made birth registration free of charge. Between and , household surveys in that country reported that registered births rose from 63 per cent to 73 per cent.
This increase followed a census, in which many families were encouraged to update their family book. Since , however, birth registration levels have stagnated.