What is the census? Legal foundations

A major project like the 2022 census requires a great deal of preparation. In Germany, the Census Preparation Act (ZensVorbG) was passed in March 2017 to create the legal framework for the preparatory work. It outlines all the steps needed to establish and maintain the infrastructure for the register-based census and the control register.

The actual execution of the census is governed by the Census Act which, among other things, specifies the parameters to be recorded and all other requirements.

EU Regulation

Regulation (EC) No. 763/2008 requires the member states of the European Union to record population figures based on a defined catalogue of parameters. This standardised system enables the results to be compared across the EU.

Census Preparation Act

The Act for the Preparation of a Register-Based Census incl. a Census of Buildings and Housing sets out the legal requirements for the preparatory work needed to carry out the register-based census in 2022. It stipulates the following:

  • The development of the infrastructure required to prepare for the register-based census in 2022
  • The responsibility of the Federal Statistical Office for central IT operations and IT development
  • The establishment and maintenance of the address-based control register
  • The data sources required to establish and maintain the control register and the submission of such data to the Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder by the registration authorities, the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy (BKG), the regional authorities responsible for the geographic reference data (the surveying authorities), the tax authorities and the property tax offices

In addition to the data used to establish an address database, the control register also contains the data required to identify:

  • The owners and administrators of living space (those responsible for providing information during the census of buildings and housing)
  • The providers, owners or administrators of dormitories and communal accommodation (those responsible for providing information during the surveys addresses with special areas)

Data submitted from the population registers

One of the main aspects covered by the Census Preparation Act is the submission of data from the population register in each German municipality to the Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder. The first data submission served as a test run for further data transfers, allowing the transmission channels and the quality of the data to be reviewed well in advance. The data is also being used to test and improve the software for the 2022 census. The pilot data was submitted on 13 January 2019. A total of five more data submissions will take place at different times.

Census Act

The Census Act came into force on 3 December 2019, creating the legal basis for conducting the census. The Census Act specifies the data to be recorded during the census of buildings and housing, the surveys of randomly selected households and the surveys to be conducted in dormitories and shared accommodation. In addition, the Census Act specifies the measures required to ensure data protection, defines the allocation of costs between the federal government and the federal states, and sets the size of the random sample.

Act for the Postponement of the Census

The census has been postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now that the law to postpone the census has entered into force, the census has been rescheduled for 15 May 2022. The law entered into force on 10 December 2020. The postponement is due to the restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which have also affected the census preparations in the public administration. The census was originally scheduled for 2021.

Control register

The control register forms the basis for the preparation, execution and evaluation of the 2022 census. It comprises data supplied by the registration authorities and surveying authorities; it is maintained by the Statistical Offices of the Federation and the Länder. Information on owners of buildings with living space or apartments is also obtained from other sources, such as the offices that are responsible for property tax or land registers. As a result, the control register contains:

  • All addresses in Germany where there is living space
  • Information on the owners
  • Addresses where there are dormitories and communal accommodation (also known as “special areas”), including information on their providers

The control register performs a number of tasks in the census:

  1. It determines the population of all units to be surveyed during the nationwide census of buildings and housing, as well as the population of residents to be surveyed as part of the nationwide survey of special areas.
  2. It forms the sampling frame for the households to be randomly surveyed during the census.
  3. It is used to control and monitor all (partial) surveys during the census.
  4. The control register can be used to bring together the various pieces of data that are obtained from administrative registers or respondents themselves during the census.
  5. Finally, it provides the basis for spatial analyses and the presentation of statistical results. The spatial data contained in the control register enables the census to be evaluated on a small scale.