Civil Registration: Comparison in Indonesia and The Netherlands

A country’s social economic development is derived from universal quantified indicators that differentiate the various stages of demographic, health and human development transitions. Consider the following; Demographic transition is founded on tracking changes in fertility and mortality (D. Kirk 1996); The epidemiological transition is measured by health status, specifically by infant mortality, life expectancy and leading causes of death (Omran 1998); Human development is measured by indicators of quality of life including; life expectancy, probability of surviving beyond age 40 and total fertility rates (UNDP 2005). These quantified indicators have necessitated establishment of data sources that provide comprehensive, accurate and timely data to inform the countries’ research and development processes. In most countries of Europe, civil registration and population register system of population counting are used as sources of data (Euro Stat 2003). A characteristic of these data sources is that they are inbuilt in basic administration of the population where data collection and utilization form part of the daily lives of the population at the individual and national level. In Asia such data sources that penetrate daily lives of the population are
lacking or inadequate (Lancet, 2007).
The United Nations Statistics Division has long recognized the importance of civil registration in production of complete, accurate and timely demographic data to help national governments alleviate social economic inequalities and thereby steer national social development progress (UNSD 2001:1). Subsequently UNSD has made efforts to encourage national governments to establish, manage, operate and maintain civil registration data methods through provision of financial and technical support. Bogue et al (1993) has utilized reports by the UNSD (1987) on improvement of civil registration in developing countries in a comparative study of major data methods. Bogue et al (1993) observes that civil registration and other data sources should be fully developed in order to serve growing and varied needs of research and development. Bogue et al submitted that none of the three data sources, census, surveys and civil registration can fulfill all data needs on its own and their complementary roles should therefore be strengthened. It has however been observed that improvement of civil registration as a data source has either not started in many countries or has altogether stagnated in those countries that attempt to establish the system (Bogue et al(1993), lancet 2007).

Here, I’d like to focus on a comparative analysis of context and system of production of demographic data by civil registration and how they influence the quality of civil registration generated data out. According to United nations recommendations on vital statistics (2001), civil registration and vital statistics is a responsibility of national governments and that the system must operate in away responsive to the social cultural milieu of the country. The system provides legal records to guide administration and access to individual human rights.
United Nations recommends utilization of data generated by civil registration for production of demographic data to aid social development planning (UN2001). United Nations further recommends gradual development of civil registration for production of demographic data from basics to more advanced data sets according to country’s data needs and capacity to produce the data. System of civil registration on the other hand refer to the core enablers of civil registration which the United Nations identify as characteristics of civil registration, legal framework, organization, human resource capacity, technological capacity and the quality of generated data. The administration and individual level relevance are examined as unit enablers of civil registration and demographic data to enable consolidation of their location in civil registration and demographic data. The two units are discussed in United Nations recommendations as themes in organization and this main streaming, this posits has reduced the weight of administration and individual level relevance in civil registration in actual implementation of the recommendations.

Civil registration
United Nations Statistics Division defines civil registration as ‘‘continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population as provided through a decree or regulation in accordance with the legal requirements in each country’’ (UN 2001:301). UNSD further defines civil registration data method to refer to “the procedure employed in gathering the basic information on the incidence of vital events and their characteristics which occur to the population of a country within a specified time period ,upon which vital records with legal value are prepared and vital statistics based” (UNSD 2001:302).
United Nations notes that the uniqueness of civil registration lies in the fact that, not withstanding the valuable analytical purpose of other data sources, none of the other data methods can meet the legal purpose of safeguarding the individual human rights with respect to social status and benefits simultaneously with demographic purpose (UNSD 2001:309).
Although many countries have some system of civil registration, improvement of this data method has been slow and erratic causing the United Nations to prioritize improvement of civil registration data method, a millennium challenge (UN2001:42).
United Nations recommend that a system of civil registration should include all ‘institutional, legal technical settings needed to perform the civil registration function in a technical, sound and coordinated and standardized manner through out the country taking in to account cultural and social circumstances particular to a country’( UNSD 2001:306).
I’ll try to consider the social cultural political and economic context of civil registration, institutional, legal technical settings as the factors of civil registration and demographic data in Indonesia and in the Netherlands.


Population registration was introduced for the first time in Indonesia by the British rule in 1815. The system was primarily designed to register the population in each village, its changes through births, deaths and migration, and it was backed by Police Regulation (Politie Reglement). The system was still used by the Dutch with some modifications to register ethnic groups, to cover also the Europeans (Staatblad No.25, 1847), the Chinese and other foreigners (Staatblad No.130, 1917).
The Dutch Government had tried hard to improve the system, including the improvement of the forms, the field organization and data processing. In 1929, the Dutch Government introduced for the first time a new system to register vital events in Yogyakarta (Staatblad No.751, 1920 and Staatblad No.564, 1927) for the Indonesian and later it was extended to other parts of Java and Madura (Staatblad No.75, 1933 and Staatblad No.607, 1936). The vital events were registered by the village headmen using a three part form
(triplikat) which includes fairly detailed information on the characteristics of the vital events and the parents or decedents.
After the proclamation of independence in 1945, the registration systems originated during the Dutch rule were continued. Currently, the registration are carried out by a number of government departments,namely the Department of Health, of Justice, of Religion and of Interior. The Department of Health is mainly responsible for registration of vital events occurring in hospitals. Unfortunately, there are no formal tabulations or publications of the results from this system so that it is difficult to estimate the coverage of the births and deaths.
Since there is no legal requirement for this registration and because of severe weaknesses in the system, it is probably safe to assume that the system is severally deficient and not viable as a basis for measuring level of fertility and mortality in Indonesia. The activities of the Civil Registration Offices, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, dating back to the late 19th century, were mainly to register vital events for selected sub-group of the population, particularly foreigners and very recently the activity of this office is extended to register all vital events and to issue certificates for the entire population (President Instruction No. 31/U/In/12/1966). The registration of marriages, divorces and reconciliation for the Moslem population is still under the jurisdiction of the Department of Religion (UNSTAT, 1993).

All the registration systems are incomplete. As the results, the systems are not fully adequate either as a legal system for establishing rights and privileges or as a statistical basis for measuring levels and trends of fertility and mortality. In recent years, there has been increasing awareness of the need to improve the existing vital registration system and to develop civil registration into a viable system for measuring changes in the size of the population and its distribution.


In the Netherlands, civil registration is a component of population register system of population accounting, which is the default source of population statistics (CBS Netherlands 2000). Civil registration data method is used together with migration statistics to update the population register of the Netherlands.

There are certain similarities, although remote, on civil registration data method between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Both countries have established civil registration systems which date back to more than 100
years ago (Gill and Rono 1989, Brekel; 1977). The civil registration systems in the two countries is coordinated and supervised by popularly elected government for the benefit of the population. Government commitment in improvement of civil registration data method in the two countries can also be observed with the establishment of a legal and organisation structure for civil registration.

Both countries have elaborate administrative setting to ensure accessibility and availability of civil registration to the population with agencies closest to the population recording occurrence of events as and when they occur. In the two countries at one point in their history there was an abuse of registration system by foreign invading authority to commit human rights against segments of the population. 


1. Social economic differences

Geographically, Netherlands is in Europe while Indonesia is in South East Asia. Netherlands is ranked 3rd (United Nations Human Development Index, 2011) while Indonesia is ranked 124th.
According to WHO, Netherlands is among the countries submits to it comprehensive population health data population while Indonesia is among developing countries that submit data based only on estimates (WHO 2003, Lancet 2007).

2. Difference in System of civil registration

The United Nations (1999) defines a System of civil registration “a system of civil registration includes all institutional, legal technical settings needed to perform the civil registration functions in a technical, sound, coordinated and standardized manner through out the country taking in to account the cultural and social circumstances to the country” (UN1999: 305). 
In Indonesia Civil Registration data method is one of many systems of population registration, relies on loosely defined sector wide collaboration for data collection, is not integrated to the national statistical system and lacks data processing capacity (obtained from Population and Civil Registration Office). Civil Registration in the Netherlands is integrated in to the population register system of population accounting and stringently enforced legal framework.
In Indonesia, a central government ministry is charged with the responsibility of coordination and supervision all civil registration activities in the country. However this ministry does not have a local network to facilitate information gathering and relies on other two ministries to record occurrence of events through out the country. The relationship between the coordinating and supervising agency on the one hand and the agencies carrying out the  recording of births and deaths on the other is not legally binding. Migration is operated as a separate unit from birth and death registration and the two have no operational links except belonging to the same ministry. There is also no link between the national agency for civil registration and the country’s central bureau of statistics. At the same time the national agency for civil registration has inadequate technological capacity to derive demographic data from the registers of births and deaths. The civil registration system is a component of the population system of population counting and is decentralized to the municipalities and integrated to CBS Netherlands. The municipality register is updated by civil registration and migration. The collaboration among the agencies involved in this system of population accounting including specific duties and responsibilities are laid out in a legal framework. Although both Indonesia and the Netherlands have a legal framework for civil registration the context and content differs. 

In the Netherlands civil registration is carried out within the context of Population Register Act which provides for; the criteria for inclusion in and removal from registers, the nature and particulars to be entered, the collaboration between the municipalities, the legislation concerning the population’s notification duties and the setting up of the government inspectorate of population registers (Brekel 1977. This law also provides how collected data is used and specifies authorization for such use (Prins 2000). 

In Indonesia civil registration is one of disparate population registration systems and is administered vertically by the department of civil registration. In the Netherlands civil registration is embedded in population register and integrated to the national statistical systems to enable the national statistical system take responsibility of production of demographic data.

In Indonesia an informant has a total of six months within which a birth should be reported to the recording authority and three months for reporting a death. There are also at least thirty days before the recorded event is submitted to the district civil registration office while the preparation of the register for data compilation takes another minimum of three weeks. In total there may be an official lag of eight months between occurrence of an event and production of data.
In the Netherlands a birth must be reported three working days after occurrence while a death must be reported immediately. Migration must be reported within three weeks of arrival to the Netherlands and also before departure. Compilation and publication of the data is done six weeks after the end of the month implying a six week lag.
This difference in the reporting of events in the two countries is because reporting period in each country is designed to accommodate various factors like transport, remoteness of some areas and the need for universal registration which vary according to the social development of a country. The delay in reporting may have am impact on accuracy and timeliness of the final demographic data.

In Indonesia a birth is registered at the place of occurrence and this is where the birth record is maintained. The details recorded are the minimum recommended by United Nations 1999. Only one record is created in duplicate for both legal and statistical use. The record is not linked to any other record on the individual. Even where a person whose birth is registered dies and although the records may be in the same registry the two events are not linked. In the Netherlands when a birth occurs, it is reported to the municipality of residence of the parents. Where a birth occurs outside this municipality, the created recorded is transferred to the municipality resident of the parents. Data collected is comprehensive and provides a link
between the child and the parents through a personal number. Once this personal card or record is created it becomes the default reference record for this individual till death.
When a death occurs at home an informant declares the death to the local administrator (assistant chief) and makes a verbal autopsy as well. In the communities that dispose the body immediately after death, disposal may take place before declaration of the death to the authority. In other nomadic areas, the community relocates from the place when a person dies, leaving the body behind. In other words although it is obligatory to get a disposal permit before disposing the body this is not always followed. The same form for declaring the death also indicates the cause of death. When a death occurs in a health institution a doctor or medical personnel with delegated authority certifies the death and the cause of death in a
duplicate form. A burial permit is issued at the hospital. 

In the Netherlands, when a death occurs at home a doctor confirms the death and also fills in a confidential form on the cause of death. A relative, a coroner or a person occupying the house where the person dies delivers the forms to the municipality in exchange of a disposal permit. The same applies when a death occurs in a hospital. Sometimes two doctors may confirm a death, a family doctor as well as a duty doctor.

3. Quality Demographic Data out put
The loosely defined organisation of civil registration has been an obstacle to completeness of civil registration. Lack of adequate human resource and technological data processing capacity coupled with lack of integration to the national statistical system has hindered full utilization of the civil registration records for the production of accurate and timely demographic data. The loose organisation of civil registration in Indonesia has led to inadequate utilization of the political and administrative structures of the government to derived demographic data from civil registration data method.

In the Netherlands the linking of civil registration to municipality population register and the CBS Netherlands has ensured that each agency takes responsibility in activities where such agency has comparative advantage in civil registration for production of demographic data and other purposes. Reports and interviews held in the Netherlands indicate that though no external audit has been done on data derived from civil registration, there is strong conviction that this data is of very high quality. The shortcomings are
addressed by factors developed over time In a data on births and deaths is derived from the legal registers and compiled in to summaries. The data on births is tabulated according to place of occurrence, age group and marital status of the mother and sex of the child. The four variables used to tabulate data on birth make it difficult to edit and track for errors and inconsistencies. Data on deaths is also compiled from the legal death register and aggregates compiled according to month, cause of death age group and sex of the disease and also in 10 year age groups except for deaths of infants below one year old and those from 1 to four completed years. Compilation of the data on causes of death is as reported on the legal form and there is no further coding. As is the case with births tabulation of deaths by age group sex and cause of death is also complex and prone to errors which are however difficult to trace. Indonesia recognises production of data by civil registration as a key government function and this data is compiled regularly across the country and submitted to national office. However, although there has not been any independent evaluation on the quality of civil registration data, the country considers the data incomplete and is never disseminated.
In the Netherlands, here is a mechanism for editing and querying in place to ensure data is complete in individual statistical reports and as aggregates. Data is processed from individual statistics reports and it is always possible to track back discrepancies to the particular statistical reports and to identifying the source of such discrepancies.

The purpose of civil registration is to produce personal legal records and also to use these legal records to derive demographic data. It has been recommended that Confidentiality of the data is guaranteed without the same confidentiality deterring use of this data for demographic purpose (UNSD 2001).

Lack of adequate human resource and technological data processing capacity hinders full utilization of the civil registration records for the production of accurate and timely demographic data.
At the same time civil registration is embedded to daily lives of the population by a structure that has; legal foundation, and which utilizes comparative advantages of various government agencies in a legally coordinated way is effective in delivering a complete, accurate and timely default demographic data source for administration, planning and research. Production of demographic data by civil registration has also been shown to benefit from integration of civil registration system with the national statistical system of a country.

Government commitment in policy and practical strategies to ensure civil registration method realizes comprehensive accurate and timely data is required. In this regard it has emerged that the legal framework on civil registration must be comprehensive and responsive to the needs of the population with roles, responsibilities at individual and agency level clearly defined. The structure of civil registration should reflect the interagency collaboration and legal obligations. While the legal framework and organisation structure lay the foundation, it is the stringent administration of civil registration data method that ensures continuous sustainable improvements in production of demographic data by this method. Enforcement of the law and establishment of incentives targeting individuals and agencies reinforce compliance with
the law at all levels and contributes to universal civil registration and comprehensive demographic data outcome. 

The other recommendation is that it is important that the production of demographic data by civil registration should incorporate editing, evaluation procedures and a strict schedule for publishing data to sustain desired quality of demographic data output.
The critical role of effective administration of civil registration has emerged strongly in this study, reinforcing previous observations that commitment to long term improvement in civil registration requires governments demonstrate commitment in policy to embed civil registration to national well being, economic and social progress.


~ by ketekbasahminggir on September 8, 2012.

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