What is the census?

01 Benefit and necessity

What is the census for?

In 2022, a new census took place in Germany. The aim of the statistical survey is to determine how many people live in Germany and how they live and work. Many decisions at national, regional and local level are based on population and housing figures. The national population has to be regularly counted to provide reliable figures for planning. As most of this data are sourced from administrative registers, most inhabitants do not have to provide any information. In Germany, the 2022 census is based on administrative registers, supplemented by a random sample and combined with a census of buildings and housing. The 2022 census in Germany will form part of a series of censuses throughout the European Union that have been taking place every ten years since 2011. The census has been postponed from 2021 to 2022 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

02 Legal Foundations

Legal Foundations

The member states of the European Union are obliged to record their population figures. In Germany, the Census Preparation Act (ZensVorbG) forms the legal framework for the preparatory work and the Census Act (ZensG) provides the legal basis for conducting the census.

Read more

03 The results of the census

The census results provide the following information:

  • The latest population figures
  • Demographic data (e.g. the age, gender and nationality of inhabitants)
  • Data on the living and housing situation (e.g. average size of living space, vacancies and ownership rate)

The data are only evaluated anonymously. The census is not about finding something out about the lifestyles or views of each individual inhabitant. On the contrary, statistics is all about generalising data, forming aggregates and calculating averages – not about presenting individual cases. The sole aim and purpose is to obtain a reliable database for further planning.

04 Who conducts the census?

Who conducts the census?

The Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder work together on the census. They prepare the survey, coordinate its consistent and punctual execution and ensure compliance with quality standards. The Federal Statistical Office is responsible for developing the necessary technical applications and works with the Federal Centre for Information Technology (ITZBund) to provide the IT infrastructure required for the reception, processing and storage of data. The Statistical Offices of the Länder are responsible for conducting the surveys in their respective federal states. They independently collect data for the census of buildings and housing, and they arrange for survey offices to be set up in their local municipalities. Their main task is to recruit survey officers and coordinate local surveys.

Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder

The Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder jointly perform the tasks assigned to official statistics in Germany. They are neutral, objective and scientifically independent institutions that provide information on societal, social, economic and ecological structures, relationships and developments, and they highlight political spheres of activity. By collecting, processing and publishing statistical data, they honour the people’s fundamental right to information and lay an important basis for democratic decision-making processes that are based on facts.

Survey offices

Whenever the statistical offices are preparing for the next census, survey offices are set up in the local municipalities. The survey offices take responsibility for recruiting, supervising, training and coordinating their survey officers. They form survey districts and assign survey officers to each one. The survey offices constantly ensure the quality of the surveys and compliance with the data protection regulations. In addition, they are responsible for checking the survey documents and contacting any citizens who have failed to provide information, so that complete survey documents can be submitted to the local statistical office.

Survey officers

Survey officers are responsible for conducting interviews on site. They visit randomly selected citizens and record the data using an (online) questionnaire. Anyone who wishes to work as a survey officer must meet certain legal requirements. All applicants are screened by the local survey officers according to the stipulated selection criteria; if there are doubts concerning their credentials, their application may be rejected. Before they can carry out their first assignment, they must undertake a legally binding, written commitment to statistical secrecy and they must promise to maintain confidentiality with regard to the knowledge they gain during and after their work. On the census date, the survey officers start conducting the personal interviews in the randomly selected households and residences. They hold a special identity card to prove they are legally authorised to perform their work.

06 Fact check for the 2022 Census

Facts about the 2022 Census

The term “disinformation” refers to false or misleading information that is spread with the intention of manipulating or deceiving the general public. The 2022 Census is also affected by this problem.
The 2011 Census was the largest official statistics project in Germany – and the 2022 Census is about to follow suit. Many citizens will be involved in the census and obliged to provide information. When it comes to major official statistics projects like this, some information may be misunderstood or even deliberately misrepresented. In addition to classic print and online media, false information may be shared on social media or in chat groups.