Essay on the Vital Statistics or Registration of Vital Events as Important Source of Population Information

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The registration of vital events is another important source of population information. It is therefore essential to understand the terms “vital events”, “vital records” and “vital statistics.”

A person’s entry into the world (by birth) and a person’s departure from it (by death) are considered to be vital events, for these events mark the beginning and the end of a person’s life.

A still birth or a foetal death is also considered as a vital even from the demographic point of view, for it is related to both the events of birth and death.

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During the span of life from birth to death, a change may take place in an individual’s civil condition, that is, he or she may get married or divorced, or may be adopted. Such events involving changes in the civil status of a person are also considered vital events.

Vital records may be defined as those concerned with vital events or those which have recorded vital events, such as births, deaths, still births, marriages, divorces, etc.

The occurrence of a vital event is reported by the persons concerned to the appropriate authorities. For instance, parents report the occurrence of a birth, relatives report a death in the family or an individual reports his or her own marriage.

In any society, births, deaths, marriages and divorces occur continuously. Hence such events are continually recorded.

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This recording or registration of vital events is known as the vital registration system. The registered events are compiled and the resulting statistics are known as vital statistics.

Along with the vital events, some ancillary information is also recorded. In case of a birth, such information includes the date of birth, the sex of the baby, the age of the mother and the number of her previous children, the order of the birth, the residence of the mother, etc.

In the case of a death, information of the date of occurrence, age and sex of the deceased, place of occurrence, usual residence of the deceased, cause of death, etc., is recorded.

On the basis of the statistics of births and deaths in a given area during a calendar year, the natural change in the population can be measured. This point can be further explained by an illustration.

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In Greater Bombay during 1973, 1, 80,409 children were born and 61,931 persons died. The increase of births over deaths during 1973 was 1, 18,478 indicating that as many persons were added to the population of Greater Bombay by way of a natural increase in 1973.

The ancillary information collected at the time of registration also revealed that of the 1, 80,409 children born during 1973 in Greater Bombay, 96,674 were boys and 83,735 were girls. Similarly, of the 61,931 persons who died in 1973, 37,314 were males and 24,617 females.

The vital registration system, which is also known as civil registration, is an important tool for studying the dynamics of popu­lation. It is, however, of paramount importance that all the events occurring in a given population should be reported as they occur and should be systematically registered and compiled.

The vital registration system is almost perfect in developed countries such as the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc. In many developing countries, however including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Kenya, etc. the vital registration systems are far from perfect.

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In these countries, a sizable number of births and deaths are not reported; hence the records remain incomplete and imperfect.

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