Technical Notes:


The statistical tables in this year’s State of World Population report once again give special attention to indicators that can help track progress in meeting the quantitative and qualitative goals of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the areas of mortality reduction, access to education, access to reproductive health services including family planning, and HIV/AIDS prevalence among young people. Several changes have been made in other indicators, as noted below. Future reports will include different process measures when these become available, as ICPD and MDG follow-up efforts lead to improved monitoring systems. Improved monitoring of the financial contributions of governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector should also allow better future reporting of expenditures and resource mobilization for ICPD/MDG implementation efforts. The sources for the indicators and their rationale for selection follow, by category.


Monitoring ICPD Goals


Indicators of Mortality

Infant mortality, male and female life expectancy at birth. Source: United Nations Population Division. 2003. World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. New York: United Nations. Spreadsheets provided by United Nations Population Division. These indicators are measures of mortality levels, respectively, in the first year of life (which is most sensitive to development levels) and over the entire lifespan. Estimates are for the 2000-2005 period. 


Maternal mortality ratio. Source: WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA. 2003. Maternal Mortality in 2000: Estimates Developed by WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA. Geneva: WHO. This indicator presents the number of deaths to women per 100,000 live births which result from conditions related to pregnancy, delivery and related complications. Precision is difficult, though relative magnitudes are informative. Estimates below 50 are not rounded; those 50-100 are rounded to the nearest 5; 100-1,000, to the nearest 10; and above 1,000, to the nearest 100. Several of the estimates differ from official government figures. The estimates are based on reported figures wherever possible, using approaches to improve the comparability of information from different sources. See the source for details on the origin of particular national estimates. Estimates and methodologies are reviewed regularly by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, academic institutions and other agencies and are revised where necessary, as part of the ongoing process of improving maternal mortality data.  Because of changes in methods, prior estimates for 1995 levels may not be strictly comparable with these estimates.


Indicators of Education

Male and female gross primary enrolment ratios, male and female gross secondary enrolment ratios. Source: Spreadsheet provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, March 2004. Data for countries from the OECD database are provisional (see details at:, last accessed 1 June 2004). Population data is based on: United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. Gross enrolment ratios indicate the number of students enrolled in a level in the education system per 100 individuals in the appropriate age group. They do not correct for individuals who are older than the level-appropriate age due to late starts, interrupted schooling or grade repetition. Data are for 2001/2002 year, or for 2000/2001 if later date not available.


Male and female adult illiteracy. Source: See gross enrolment ratios above for source; data adjusted to illiteracy, from literacy.  Illiteracy definitions are subject to variation in different countries; three widely accepted definitions are in use. In so far as possible, data refer to the proportion who cannot, with understanding, both read and write a short simple statement on everyday life. Adult illiteracy (rates for persons above 15 years of age) reflects both recent levels of educational enrolment and past educational attainment. The above education indicators have been updated using the UN Population Division estimates from World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. New York: United Nations. Data are for the most recent year estimates available for the 2000-2004 period.


Proportion reaching grade 5 of primary education. Source: See gross enrolment ratios above for source. Data are most recent within the school years beginning in 1999, 2000, or 2001. Twenty-three countries reported data to grade 4 (see original source).


Indicators of Reproductive Health

Births per 1,000 women aged 15-19. Source: Spreadsheets provided by the United Nations Population Division. This is an indicator of the burden of fertility on young women. Since it is an annual level summed over all women in the age cohort, it does not reflect fully the level of fertility for women during their youth. Since it indicates the annual average number of births per woman per year, one could multiply it by five to approximate the number of births to 1,000 young women during their late teen years. The measure does not indicate the full dimensions of teen pregnancy as only live births are included in the numerator. Stillbirths and spontaneous or induced abortions are not reflected.


Contraceptive prevalence. Source: Spreadsheet, “Percent Currently Using Contraception among Married or In-union Women of Reproductive Age”, provided by United Nations Population Division using “World Contraceptive Use 2003: Database Maintained by the Population Division of the United Nations Secretariat.” These data are derived from sample survey reports and estimate the proportion of married women (including women in consensual unions) currently using, respectively, any method or modern methods of contraception. Modern or clinic and supply methods include male and female sterilization, IUD, the pill, injectables, hormonal implants, condoms and female barrier methods. These numbers are roughly but not completely comparable across countries due to variation in the timing of the surveys and in the details of the questions.  Unlike in past years, all country and regional data refer to women aged 15-49. The most recent survey data available are cited, ranging from 1980-2002.


HIV prevalence rate, M/F, 15-49. Source: Data provided by UNAIDS: UNAIDS 2004. Geneva: UNAIDS. These data derive from surveillance system reports and model estimates. Data provided for men and women aged 15-49 are point estimates for each country. The reference year is 2003. Male-female differences reflect physiological and social vulnerability to the illness and are affected by age differences between sexual partners.


Demographic, Social and Economic Indicators


Total population 2003, projected population 2050, average annual population growth rate for 2000-2005. Source: Spreadsheets provided by United Nations Population Division. These indicators present the size, projected future size and current period annual growth of national populations.


Per cent urban, urban growth rates. Source: United Nations Population Division. 2004. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision. New York: United Nations, available from CD-ROM (POP/DP/WUP/Rev.2003), and United Nations Population Division. 2004. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision: Data Tables and Highlights (ESA/P/WP.190). New York: United Nations. These indicators reflect the proportion of the national population living in urban areas and the growth rate in urban areas projected.


Agricultural population per hectare of arable and permanent crop land. Source: Data provided by Food and Agriculture Organization, Statistics Division, using agricultural population data based on the total populations from United Nations Population Division. 2003. World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. New York: United Nations. This indicator relates the size of the agricultural population to the land suitable for agricultural production. It is responsive to changes in both the structure of national economies (proportions of the workforce in agriculture) and in technologies for land development. High values can be related to stress on land productivity and to fragmentation of land holdings. However, the measure is also sensitive to differing development levels and land use policies.  Data refer to the year 2001.


Total fertility rate (period: 2000-2005). Source: United Nations Population Division. 2003. World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. New York: United Nations. The measure indicates the number of children a woman would have during her reproductive years if she bore children at the rate estimated for different age groups in the specified time period. Countries may reach the projected level at different points within the period.


Births with skilled attendants. Source: Spreadsheet provided by UNICEF, with data from State of World’s Children 2004 and February 2004 MDG Monitoring updates. Data for more developed countries are not available. This indicator is based on national reports of the proportion of births attended by “skilled health personnel or skilled attendant: doctors (specialist or non-specialist) and/or persons with midwifery skills who can diagnose and manage obstetrical complications as well as normal deliveries”. Data for more developed countries reflect their higher levels of skilled delivery attendance. Because of assumptions of full coverage, data (and coverage) deficits of marginalized populations and the impacts of chance and transport delays may not be fully reflected in official statistics. Data estimates are the most recent available after 1994.


Gross national income per capita. Source: Most recent (2001 or 2002) figures from: The World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Web site: (by subscription). This indicator (formerly referred to as gross national product [GNP] per capita) measures the total output of goods and services for final use produced by residents and non-residents, regardless of allocation to domestic and foreign claims, in relation to the size of the population. As such, it is an indicator of the economic productivity of a nation. It differs from gross domestic product (GDP) by further adjusting for income received from abroad for labour and capital by residents, for similar payments to non-residents, and by incorporating various technical adjustments including those related to exchange rate changes over time. This measure also takes into account the differing purchasing power of currencies by including purchasing power parity (PPP) adjustments of "real GNP". Some PPP figures are based on regression models; others are extrapolated from the latest International Comparison Programme benchmark estimates; see original source for details.


Central government expenditures on education and health. Source: Most recent data point in last 6 years from: The World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Web site: (by subscription). These indicators reflect the priority afforded to education and health sectors by a country through the government expenditures dedicated to them. They are not sensitive to differences in allocations within sectors, e.g., primary education or health services in relation to other levels, which vary considerably. Direct comparability is complicated by the different administrative and budgetary responsibilities allocated to central governments in relation to local governments, and to the varying roles of the private and public sectors.  Reported estimates are presented as shares of GDP per capita (for education) or total GDP (for health). Great caution is also advised about cross-country comparisons because of varying costs of inputs in different settings and sectors.


External assistance for population. Source: UNFPA. 2003. Financial Resource Flows for Population Activities in 2001. New York: UNFPA. This figure provides the amount of external assistance expended in 2001 for population activities in each country. External funds are disbursed through multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies and by non-governmental organizations. Donor countries are indicated by their contributions being placed in parentheses. Regional totals include both country-level projects and regional activities (not otherwise reported in the table). Data for 2002 will be available post-publication.


Under-5 mortality. Source: United Nations Population Division, special tabulation based on United Nations. 2003. World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision. New York: United Nations. This indicator relates to the incidence of mortality to infants and young children. It reflects, therefore, the impact of diseases and other causes of death on infants, toddlers and young children. More standard demographic measures are infant mortality and mortality rates for 1 to 4 years of age, which reflect differing causes of and frequency of mortality in these ages. The measure is more sensitive than infant mortality to the burden of childhood diseases, including those preventable by improved nutrition and by immunization programmes. Under-5 mortality is here expressed as deaths to children under 5 per 1,000 live births in a given year. The estimate refers to the period 2000-2005.


Per capita energy consumption. Source: The World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Web site: (by subscription). This indicator reflects annual consumption of commercial primary energy (coal, lignite, petroleum, natural gas and hydro, nuclear and geothermal electricity) in kilograms of oil equivalent per capita. It reflects the level of industrial development, the structure of the economy and patterns of consumption. Changes over time can reflect changes in the level and balance of various economic activities and changes in the efficiency of energy use (including decreases or increases in wasteful consumption). Data estimates are for 2001.


Access to safe water. Source: UNICEF. 2003. The State of the World’s Children 2004: Girls, Education and Development. New York: UNICEF: Table 3: Health.  This indicator reports the percentage of the population with access to an improved source of drinking water providing adequate amount of safe water located within a convenient distance from the user’s dwelling. The italicized words use country-level definitions. The indicator is related to exposure to health risks, including those resulting from improper sanitation. Data are estimates for the year 2000.