Legal and regulatory frameworks
Principle features of the system
A vital event record should serve both legal and statistical purposes. For this reason, when creating or revising the legal framework, it is important to assess which characteristics are most important in meeting information needs at national and local levels. These characteristics should then be included in registration documents. Overloading the civil registration process with collection requests should be avoided by keeping to the basic characteristics needed to generate vital statistics. Once agreement on which data items to include on the form has been reached, arrangements should be made for the information to be collected through the civil registration process.
A recommended list of high-priority characteristics to include in birth and death registration forms has been developed by the United Nations, based on the value of the characteristics in supporting national policy and program development. Countries can use this list as a basis for identifying their own high-priority data needs. For example, in the case of births it is useful to collect characteristics on the health status of the infant, as well as information on the age of the mother and birth parity, as these can be useful in developing child and maternal health policies, and planning the provision of local health services.
It is also important that the law allows the information to remain on a single record level throughout the reporting and compiling chain. This will ensure that different users can aggregate the information into the vital statistics and information they need to better perform their functions without having to collect these data themselves.
While the legislative instrument should specifically provide for the collection of this information, it does not need to incorporate all the individual data items. These can be spelled out in regulations, and may change over time as information needs and collection capacities grow.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (2014). Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system. (Sections 65–210 & 397–399). United Nations, New York.