Birth registration

Export Indicator

Proportion of children aged 0-–4 whose births are reported registered.
What it measures

To determine whether children in the country are being registered and kept under the supervision of the government.


This indicator assesses the extent of registration of children. Orphans without proof of birth lack the essential protection that stems from this legal form of identity. Proof of lineage is critical for orphans in order to inherit the property of deceased parents. In general, birth registration is the first step towards recognizing a child’s inalienable rights as a human being. Without proof of birth, children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and as adults may be denied the rights of a citizen. In some countries, children without a birth certificate cannot receive vaccinations or enrol in school; as adults, they cannot get married, open a bank account, acquire a passport or vote. Birth registration is also critical to the functioning of every nation. Every government requires accurate data on births. Countries that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights agreements are committed to registering children at birth National birth registration systems provide vital data countries need for planning and policy development, for monitoring the situation of children and allocating resources.


Number of children aged 0–4 whose births are reported registered.


Total number of children aged 0–4 surveyed.

Method of measurement

This indicator is derived from responses by caretakers of children to a question about the registration status of the child. Ask the primary caregivers about birth registration documents and obtain physical evidence if the document exists. The age range could be extended to age 9 or higher depending on country needs and will provide immediate information for programmatic response. The data, however, should also be reported separately for the 0–4 age group in order to assess trends. Many countries have baseline data through DHS and MICS for this age group. The efforts to increase registration of children at birth will be better captured with the smaller age cohort.


Age group: 1 month - 4 years

Education: N/A

Gender: N/A

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Strengths and weaknesses

If there is a legal obligation to register births, questions about registration may be perceived as threatening, and they must be administered with care. It is essential that respondents understand that the information they provide is confidential and that individual data will not be disclosed to government authorities. The knowledge about birth registration could be unreliable if the primary caretaker is not a parent, is an absentee parent or primary caregiver (especially in the case of migrant workers), or is someone who took over care of the child without access to all available official information on the child.
It is not necessary to disaggregate the information by orphan status, since birth registration is critical for all children. The registration of children usually should take place long before a child is likely to have been orphaned. Thus there is no need to compare the proportion registered by orphans versus non-orphans. Registration of orphans is probably higher in some settings because children are being registered in response to having become an orphan. Beside the overall percentage of children who are registered information should be provided on the proportion that actually possess such a certificate. Along with identifying the extent of the problem of non-registration, two questions are recommended to identify obstacles to registration and knowledge of the registration process among those caregivers whose children are not registered.