The last classic census took place in the former territory of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1987. As with the upcoming census, it was a survey of statistical population data that was required by law. However, the total population was not determined on the basis of a random sample; a full census was conducted – and all citizens were obliged to provide information.
Following on from the 2011 census, the 2022 census will be conducted as a “register-based census”, a method developed by the Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder. In contrast to a traditional census, not all citizens have to be interviewed in a register-based census, as most of the data is already available in administrative registers such as those kept by residents’ registration offices.
In the upcoming register-based census, copies of that data will be submitted to the official statistics, where they will be stored separately under strict data protection requirements. However, some individuals or families may have recently moved house and not yet registered their new address. In such cases, the information in the population registers will be incorrect. In order to iron out such inaccuracies in the statistics, less than 10% of the population will be surveyed in a short interview. This survey, based on a random sample, is also necessary to collect data that is not available in the registers, such as information on education, training and employment.
As there are no comprehensive registers for buildings and housing in Germany, approximately 17.5 million owners of apartments or residential buildings will be surveyed by post. A further survey will be conducted in residential establishments (e.g. student halls of residence) and collective living quarters (e.g. old people’s homes, nursing homes and homes for children and young people). The registers are particularly inaccurate for such addresses, as there are frequent changes of residents.
The register-based census will provide reliable results for the whole of Germany – even though the entire population is not surveyed.
The microcensus is an official statistical survey that has been conducted every year since 1957 using a representative sample of 1% of households in Germany.
In comparison to the census, the microcensus is more detailed and contains more questions. Due to the wide range of data collected during the microcensus, it is suitable for analysing small sub-populations (e.g. occupational groups). As the microcensus is conducted on a more regular basis, it also enables data and trends to be analysed over time which, in turn, leads to the discovery of historical developments. The microcensus can also be used for longitudinal analyses. The microcensus is also suitable for drawing comparisons in an international context, as there are international standards for various areas. In addition, the microcensus is an important tool for extrapolating, adjusting and controlling the data collected in a number of surveys in the fields of empirical social research, opinion polling and official statistics. However, the results can only be shown for Germany, its federal states, large cities and districts / regions, because the sample of 1% of households is too small for more detailed results to be presented. In contrast to the microcensus, the census includes interviews with all owners of buildings and housing in Germany, and the information obtained from registers is supplemented by a survey of 10% of households and a survey of people living in dormitories and shared accommodation. This means that results will be available for all towns, cities and municipalities.
So, unlike with the census, the aim of the microcensus is not to determine the official number of inhabitants, but to provide annual data on the economic and social situation of the German population. This includes information on household and family structures, the labour market and employment, training and further education, income and many other aspects. In contrast to the census, the microcensus provides much more detailed information about important changes in society and the economy. It can be used to determine key figures, structural data and their changes at short intervals, which helps to fill data gaps between large censuses of the entire population (i.e. the 2011 census and 2022 census).