Country Profile of Germany
Main statistical agency
Main statistical agency name
Federal Statistical Office
Position in the government
The Federal Statistical Office (FSO) is an independent superior federal authority (selbständige Bundesoberbehörde) in the sphere of competence of the Federal Minister of the Interior (see Art. 2 Federal Statistics Law).
Organizational structure and finance
President (Mr. Dieter Sarreither)
Vice-President (Mr. Dr. Georg Thiel)
Department A Administration, Administrative Cost Measurement
Department B Strategy and Planning, International Relations, Research and Communication
Department C Information Technology, Mathematical-Statistical Methods
Department D National Accounts, Labour Market, Prices
Department E Business Register, Earnings, Industry, Services
Department F Population, Finance and Taxes
Department G Agriculture, Environment, Foreign Trade
Department H Health, Social Statistics, Education, Households
Position in the government:
The president of the FSO is appointed by the Federal President on the proposal of the Federal Government. As a civil servant the term of office of the President of the FSO is unlimited until the completion of the 65 year of age (until 67 in the future). Dismissal is not possible as he/she is a civil servant. Removal from service would only be feasible based on disciplinary law. Because he/she is a civil servant he/she can be moved in principle to another (non statistical) post without a special reason. It never happened against the will of the person. If there is a political change in the government of the Federal Republic of Germany (if the government changes) this will have no impact on the position of the President of the FSO. He will not be removed from his post. In keeping with a long-standing tradition that dates back to the Reichstag elections, the Director of the Federal Office of Statistics is routinely assigned the duties of Federal Returning Officer.
Multi-annual or annual work program
Annual Report 2015
Destatis just published its annual report 2015. The report provides an insight on which national and international quality standards ensure official statistics in Germany. In an interview with Stefan Schweinfest, Director of Statistics of the UN in New York, Destatis is expanding its vision to the global statistics community.
The report also focuses on business statistics and particularly on statistics obtained from company data, such as those included in economic policy decisions, and describes how companies are affected. State Minister Prof. Helge Braun explained from a different perspective in an interview results from the survey of companies in connection with his duties, the office for measuring the reduction of administrative burden.
The Report is available only in German. The English version will be provided in August 2016 probably .
The statistical programme of the FSO is prepared and approved in the following way:
Regular inquiry and listing of tasks for each year and for the multiannual planning in contact with the subject matter units, constant review of tasks, priority setting in a high-level meeting (President, Vice President, Heads of departments).
The multi-annual work programme is outlined in an integrated Strategy and Programme Plan of the FSO, which is an information document (not a legal act). The strategy and programme plan of the FSO for the years 2016-2020 was published in June 2016.
The Publication gives an overview about all statistical working areas and all responsible contact parters, lists all official statistics produced within the FSO, the most important publications and the current statistical tasks and those planned in the near future.
Benefits of the Corporate Plan are: the orientation of planning processes towards the strategic goals; the participation of all departments in implementing the strategic goals, an overview of the entire work-programme by including the current and new activities of all areas of work, priority setting in compliance with available resources.
The assignment of the Federal Statistical Office is to provide and distribute objective and highly qualitative statistical information to all, namely politicians, government, administrative agencies, business and industry, and the citizens in general.
The special feature of the statistics of the Federal Statistical Office is that they are "official". This involves the obligation to produce reliable data following the principles of objectivity, neutrality, and scientific independence. The principles of statistical work and the tasks of the Federal Statistical Office are laid down in the Law on Statistics for Federal Purposes.
In accordance with the federal state and administrative structure of the Federal Republic of Germany, federation-wide official statistics ("federal statistics") are produced in cooperation between the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the 16 Länder.
According to the principle of regional decentralisation, the main tasks assigned to the FSO are the following:
• methodological and technical preparation of federal statistics which are indispensable
for obtaining uniform data for the whole of Germany, and
• the compilation and dissemination of federal data.
The uniform and timely data collection and processing up to the level of Länder results, however, is generally the task of the 14 statistical offices of the Länder (=federal states). The statistical offices of the Länder are not agencies subordinate to the FSO but Land authorities which are entirely independent from the Federation in terms of organisation and funding.
One of the characteristic features of official statistics in Germany on the other hand is its functional centralisation. Much of the statistical work is carried out by special authorities set up for this purpose, i.e. the statistical offices at the federal, Land and local levels. In a few exceptional cases, other agencies have been entrusted with the production of federal statistics. Examples are the Deutsche Bundesbank (German Federal Bank) - which compiles the German data for the European Central Bank monetary and balance of payments statistics - and the Federal Labour Ageny - which produces parts of the labour market statistics.
With just a few exceptions, conducting the survey and processing the data up to Land results fall within the competence of the statistical offices of the Länder.
Some 2,359 staff members collect, process, present and analyse statistical information in the Wiesbaden, Bonn (and Berlin Information Point) in eight departments of the Federal Statistical Office. Six departments and the offices of the President and the Vice-President are located in Wiesbaden's main office, two further departments are situated in the Bonn branch office. The Berlin Information Point, designed as the Office's service centre in the Federal capital of Berlin provides information and advisory services based on official statistical data to Members of the Bundestag, the German federal government, embassies, and federal authorities, to industry associations, and all those who are interested in official statistics in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. Up-to-date information and communication tools ensure smooth cooperation between the staff in the different places of employment. Apart from those tasks, the Wiesbaden main office runs the largest library specialised in statistical literature in Germany.
Brief history and other relevant background information
Brief history and other relevant background information
First efforts to compile official statistics on a continuous basis were made in Germany as early as in the 18th century. The statistical material which was collected at that time to provide a "Description of State and National Life" has been preserved until today. In the 19th century, statistical activities were extended, improved in methodological terms and, in particular, institutionalised in establishments set up for statistical purposes. Upon the foundation of the German Reich, a central statistical office named Kaiserliches Statistisches Amt (Imperial Statistical Office), which was subordinated to the Reichsamt des Innern (Reich Department of the Interior), was finally established in 1872. Apart from its responsibility for population statistics, the Office was gradually assigned new responsibilities regarding agricultural, transport, building activity and industrial production statistics and, as a result of the new social legislation, also social statistics. Another of its major functions was to coordinate and harmonise a large number of statistics of the Reich's individual states. Besides, the bodies of German official statistics have participated in the international exchange of experience and the development of statistical methodology under the umbrella of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) since 1853.
After World War I, the responsibility for labour statistics was transferred from the then called Statistisches Reichsamt (Reich Statistical Office), which was subordinated to the newly established Reichswirtschaftsministerium (Reich Ministry of Economic Affairs), to the Reichsanstalt für Arbeitsvermittlung und Arbeitslosenversicherung (Reich Institute for Labour Placement and Unemployment Insurance). During the years of hyperinflation (1920 to 1923), short-term price and wage statistics were considerably enlarged. Upon the establishment of a unified Reichsfinanzverwaltung (Reich Finance Administration), detailed statistics of the finance situation of all public authorities were constructed and the existing tax statistics extended. In the context of the reparations negotiations between Germany and the victorious powers of World War I, the national income computation was developed as the predecessor of national accounting. And, as a result of increasing international contacts, statistics of foreign countries became very important, too.
The development of central state structures in the Third Reich resulted in an increased transfer of statistical activities from the states level to the Reich level. As a consequence of wartime economy, however, part of the functions of the Reich Office were transferred to other authorities and organisations.
After the end of World War II in 1945, a statistical office of the British occupied zone was set up in Hamburg in 1946. In the American zone, Land statistical offices were established. Upon amalgamation of the British and American occupied zones, the Statistisches Amt des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebietes (Statistical Office of the United Economic Territory) was set up in 1948 which was transformed into the Federal Statistical Office after the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. Land statistical offices were then set up in all Länder of the Federal Republic.
As regards the territory of the later German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Deutsche Zentralverwaltung für Statistik in der Sowjetischen Besatzungszone (German Central Statistical Board in the Soviet Occupied Zone) was founded in 1945. At the same time, Land statistical offices and district statistical offices were established. Between 1950 and 1952, the system of official statistics was centralised in the GDR. As a result, it encompassed a Central Statistical Board in Berlin (East), 15 county and 223 district offices.
With the German reunification on 3 October 1990, the statistical laws of the Federal Republic of Germany entered into force in the territory of the former GDR, too. Land statistical offices were set up in the new Länder in a short period of time. Since January 1991, the major part of statistics in the new Länder and Berlin-East have been produced along the lines of the concepts and methodology of federal statistics.
Today, the Federal Republic of Germany has a Federal Statistical Office, 14 Land statistical offices and about 100 independent statistical offices at municipal and communal level. They are engaged in producing the vast majority of federal, Land and municipal statistics.
The main principles of the work of Official Statistics, namely the obligation to observe objectivity, neutrality, and scientific independence, the tasks of the Federal Statistical Office, and the provisions regarding statistical confidentiality, are laid down in the Federal Statistics Law (updated version of 21 July 2016).
What applies to federal statistics in Germany is the principle of legality. This means that generally every individual statistics requires a specific legal basis (task of the legislative bodies). In its judgement of 15 December 1983 on the 1983 population census, the Federal Constitutional Court strengthened that link to a legal basis. According to that judgement, statistical surveys involving the obligation to provide information interfere with the constitutional right to informational self-determination. Such interference requires restrictive legal authorisation that is clearly defined in advance. Therefore, what is done in practice in Germany is that – with very few exceptions – laws are adopted that define all major parameters of any survey (especially variables, group of reporting units, periodicity).
The legal obligation ordering a federal statistics must determine whether and to what extent the survey is to be conducted with or without an obligation to provide information. If an obligation to provide information has been stipulated, all natural legal persons under private and public law, associations of persons, public authorities of the Federation and the Länder as well as communities and local authorities shall be liable to reply to duly ordered questions.
Nowadays official Statistics in Germany are determined by a great number of European Laws as well (mainly regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council supplemented by regulations of the Commission).
Other producers of official statistics
Other producers of official statistics
o Statistical offices of the Länder
o Berlin and Brandenburg
o Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein
o Statistics of German Cities
Statistical advisory bodies
Statistical advisory bodies
In Germany, a so called Statistical Advisory Committee advises the FSO on fundamental issues and initiates plans for further developments. Moreover, the advisory committee prepares a report to the German Parliament at the end of the legislative term and evaluates proposals for the statistical programme of the past period and the period to come. The advisory committee has a purely advisory function; its legal provisions are laid down in article 4 of the Federal Statistics Law.
The Statistical Advisory Committee comprises representatives of all groups cooperating in the production of federal statistics as well as users and respondents (statistical offices of the Länder, federal ministries, the Bundesbank, municipal central associations, business associations, trade unions and science), one representative of Eurostat and one representative of the German Council for Social and Economic data and one representative of environmental associations.It is convened once a year; these meetings are chaired by the President of the FSO. The statistical offices as well as the federal ministries have no right to vote (the committee has a purely advisory function).
For the adequate implementation of its tasks, the advisory committee has the right to establish expert committees and working parties dealing with special subjects. Discussions of expert committees can make it possible to tap the knowledge and the experience of external experts for the planning and development of official statistics. Users and respondents are given a chance to articulate their interests. At the same time, representatives of official statistics have the opportunity to explain their concern and to clarify the feasibility of proposals in discussions with the parties concerned.
The expert committees, as a rule, conform to the organisational structure of the FSO. Thus, for example, there are expert committees for statistics on manufacturing, environmental statistics or social statistics. But there are also expert committees for cross-sectional areas of statistics, such as classifications or regional statistics. The expert committees are chaired by the responsible departmental heads of the FSO.
Furthermore there exists the Inter Ministerial Committe for Co-ordination and Rationalisation of statistics and the Conference of the President of the Federal Statistical Office and of the Heads of the Statistical Offices of the Laender
Most recent population census
The Census 2011 of the European Union was conducted in 2011. First results were provided on 31 May 2013.
In the past:
For the "new Länder" 1981, for the "old" Federal Republic of Germany 1987.
Access to administrative data
Adminstrative data are used in German Federal Statistics to a great extent- especially in those statistical areas where statistics are traditionally produced as secondary statistics like education statistics, health statistics, finance and tax statistics and parts of the labour market statistics. Apart from that, increased efforts have been made for some years to use administrative data in economic statistics and to conduct a future population census on the basis of the population registers maintained by the municipalities.
As a general rule, the statistical offices only have access to administrative data sources if this is explicitly stipulated by law (examples: Law on statistical registers (Statistikregistergesetz) and Law on the use of administrative data (Verwaltungsdatenverwendungsgesetz)). General administrative registers with personal data do not exist in Germany. Each administration stores the data it needs in accordance with the relevant laws. It is strictly forbidden to use statistical surveys for updating registers outside the statistical offices.
According to the law for the statistical register e.g. the following administrative files are used:
- files from the tax authorities (VAT files, file of imcome and corporation tax
- file from the Federal Institute for employment
- files from the Chambers of Craft
- files from the Federal Finance Office
- files from the Chambers of Industry and Commerce
Confidentiality in Germany is regulated by the Federal Data Protection Act. Section 5 of the Law states that persons employed in data processing shall not collect, process or use personal data without authorization (confidentiality). On taking up their duties such persons, in so far as they work for private bodies, shall be required to give an undertaking to maintain such confidentiality. This undertaking shall continue to be valid after termination of their activity.
Statistics for Federal Purposes Act of 22 January 1987 protects confidentiality stricter than Federal Data Protection Law. Article 16 of the Law states that individual data on personal circumstances or the material situation provided for federal statistics shall not be disclosed by the incumbents and the person specially sworn in for public services who are entrusted with the
operation of federal statistics unless otherwise stipulated by special legal provision. The obligation to confidentiality applies also to those persons who are recipients of individual data pursuant to a special legal provision or for the purpose of scientific projects.
Article 16 also regulates the transmission of the individual data between persons and agencies
entrusted with the operation of federal statistics, the transmission of individual data to the
Länder statistical offices, to agencies of communities and local authorities and the transmission
for the purposes of scientific projects.
The respondents will be notified in writing or electronically about the rules governing statistical
confidentiality (Article 17 of the Law).
Interview findings indicate that nobody has tried to identify an individual from data or statistical
As regards the confidentiality of tables, methods of primary and secondary confidentiality have been developed and are used, also in co-operation with Eurostat. For business and agriculture surveys disclosure risk assessment is based on concentration-rules. Cell suppression is used to prevent residual disclosure in tables for dissemination.
Release calendar (existence, when and how published)
An annual release calendar is published during each October for the following year. It contains the release dates of all indicators that are included in the annual IMF SDDS Plus calendar and additional important indicators.
The Federal Statistical Office of Germany has been publishing statistics since its foundation 1949. The annually released Statistical Yearbook is the most comprehensive statistical reference book offered in the German market with, besides the printed version, free access on the internet. Quite all other publications are also offered for free as pdf-files, some of them in English. We regularly publish thematic publications focused on, for example, population, education, prices, environment or the labour market as well as contribution to social and political debates. Brochures on indicators to measure social, economic and environmental development and leaflets with brief data top off the portfolio of our publications.
Languages of main publications
How are data disseminated (Paper, CD Rom, Website, online databases, databanks)?
The Internet (website and database GENESIS-Online) is the most important media system. There is free access to all data on the website. All publications are available for download free of charge, printed copies can be ordered online for a fee.
According the communication strategy of the Federal Statistical Office the dissemination of data is amended by interactive visualisation tools to make statistics more user-friendly supporting the transformation from statistics to knowledge. More than 5 million page views each month are evidence of high user acceptance of the website.
The database GENESIS-Online is part of the content management on the website. A close link between the website and the database provides consistent updated data on all platforms. Webservices offer application programmer interfaces (API) for registered users. GENESIS-Online contains 85 million figures presented in more than 1000 tables.
Availability of microdata for research purposes
In 2001, the FSO established a research data centre, and another research data centre of the statistical offices of the Länder was set up in March 2002 as a joint facility of all statistical offices of the Länder with 15 regional locations. The major goal of the research data centres of the FSO and the statistical offices of the Länder is to facilitate access to microdata of official statistics for the scientific community by establishing various ways of data use.
• Absolutely anonymised data are modified by aggregation or by deletion of individual
variables to an extent making it impossible - as far as anyone can judge - to identify
respondents. Official statistics offers absolutely anonymised microdata in the form of
so-called Public Use Files (PUF). They are made available to anyone interested.
• Microdata are referred to as being de facto anonymised when - although disclosure
cannot entirely be ruled out - the data can be matched with the relevant unit only by
making unreasonable efforts in terms of time, cost, and labour. This regulation is
based on § 16 of the Federal Statistics Law. The data sets created for that type of
use are referred to as Scientific Use Files (SUF).
• Project-related data anonymisation is carried out when the demand for specific
statistics is low or when microdata are hard to anonymise, so that it would not be
reasonable to create standardised Scientific Use Files in a highly complex procedure.
Project-related anonymisation also creates de facto anonymity. However, the relevant
data can only be analysed on the premises of the research data centres of the
Federation and the Länder, using so-called safe scientific workstations.
• Using protected data stocks through controlled remote data processing is a rather
recent development, whose importance will grow in the future. These approaches allow
scientists to use the entire information potential of microdata material which is at
most formally anonymised. Scientists develop and transfer analysis programmes (syntax
scripts) which are then applied to the original data by the staff of the research data
centres. That service is currently offered for the programmes SPSS, SAS and STATA. In
contrast to Scientific Use Files, controlled remote data processing is not restricted
to a specific group of persons, thus enabling also foreign scientists and non-
scientific persons to use microdata of official statistics.
• In the project "An informational infratructure for the E-Science Age" (InfinitE) the Research Data Centre develops the access to mcro data of the Official Statistics further in cooperation with partners. One focus is the production of syntactic and semantic data structure files, which allows the data external user a better preparation of their analysis of data from the Official Statistics. Another focus is to attain a progress in the automatic disclosure control of the results of this user analysis.