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The next Census is only 5 years away: Germany still has catching up to do

Press release, 21.06.2016

Five years seem like long time, but, as a large-scale project, Census 2021 still requires much preparation. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has stated that Germany still has some catching up to do compared to the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, or Austria. This holds true with regard to the availability of administrative data, the quality of the official register, and scientific quality control. The following summary of the German Data Forum’s report contains recommendations for the future design of the census in Germany. The RatSWD chair Prof. Riphahn and Prof. Dr. Rockmann, chair of the Working Group Census, handed over the report to the state secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), Mr. Vitt, on 20th June 2016.

(Image: BMI)

Population data are an important tool for political planning processes. Recent immigration and changes in population structure require up-to-date and valid data. The upcoming Census 2021 is indispensable for science and policy.
However, according to Dr. Rockmann, who chaired the working group Census of the German Data Forum, there is much work to be done in preparation of the 2021 Census and future population surveys, which includes bringing in the necessary regulations into the legislative process.
The working group has spent the past months developing recommendations for the Census in 2021 and future population surveys together with representatives of science and the statistics agencies.
The German Data Forum’s recently published report contains extensive recommendations on the way the 2021 census should be designed. They encompass legal conditions as well as short and long-term measures to frame and refine the data collection process.
One of the RatSWD's central recommendations for the 2021 Census is to optimise the resident register to ensure up-to-date and complete data. It recommends creating a commission of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) including representatives of the statistics authorities, data protection offices, and science in order to ensure quality control of the resident register. Furthermore, it states that research on methodology and quality control are essential for advancing the Census. This will require process data, which are created during the data collection process, as well as the legal requirements for science and research to access these data. Both were neglegted during the 2011 census. For this reason, the RatSWD recommends legally integrating concomitant research into the Census Preparation Act to secure independent research, quality control, and quality of methods. This is the only way of tracing and assessing effects of methodological decisions on the survey’s results comprehensively.
In the long term, the task is to develop a concept which will meet the demands laid out by European Comission with regard to the provision of high-quality population data as of 2024. The German Data Forum recommends the Federal Ministry of the Interior creates a international working group consisting of representatives of official statistics agencies and science.

The report “Empfehlungen des RatSWD zum Zensus 2021 und zu späteren Volkszählungen“ (“Recommendations of the German Data Forum on the Census 2021 and future population surveys“) can be accessed in German online: www.ratswd.de/dl/RatSWD_Output2_AG-Zensus-Bericht.pdf

For press requests and to order a printed copy, please write contact office@ratswd.de

On the Census in Germany
In 2011 Germany used a register-based procedure for the Census for the first time. Contrary to earlier traditional population surveys (surveying of the entire population), existing administrative data (e.g. the official register) were used – complemented by population surveys on a sample basis – to determine population size. The 2021 census will use an identical procedure. A part of the necessary measures will be regulated by the Census Preparation Act, which will be passed by the Bundestag this year. A law on census implementation on the federal and the state level will be developed later on and subsequently passed by the respective legislature.

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The German Data Forum (RatSWD) is an independent body of empirical researchers from universities, university-level institutions, and institutions of independent scientific research as well as representatives of important data producers. It was established by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2004 with the goal of sustainably improving the research data infrastructure and its international competitiveness.