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Germany: Collection of Anti-discrimination Data in Representative Repeat Surveys

The expert opinion prepared for the Federal Antidiscrimination Agency (FADA) sets out to identify the discrimination-relevant questions and categories included in representative repeat surveys conducted across Germany. It covers both cross-thematic surveys (such as microcensus, socio-economic panel – SOEP) and major area- and target group specific surveys (such as the German ageing survey “Deutscher Alterssurvey”). Based on these data, it evaluates existing Approaches and flags data gaps. Finally, the expert opinion formulates recommendations specifying the ways in which discrimination reporting should be developed further to match the scope of protection enshrined in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG).

The study by Dr. Anne-Luise Baumann, Vera Egenberger, Dr. Linda Supik looked at 20 repeat surveys that complied with predetermined selection criteria (nation-wide survey, clearly defined population, repeated conduct, coverage of diverse settings). The surveys were first analysed to determine what questions are asked about discrimination (e.g. questions about subjective discrimination experiences).

Second, the study documented whether and how the characteristics protected under the AGG were covered. The status of data surveys and the potential to take them further were discussed in two focus groups with civil society representatives and social scientists. Moreover, one-off target group interviews and international surveys were scanned for innovative questions.


Most surveys already include questions asking about subjective discrimination experiences or other aspects of discrimination. However, the picture remains patchy:

  • In some instances, questions to that effect are only asked of certain subsets of persons (such as migrants) or they only look at discrimination on grounds of given characteristics (such as age) or in a given sphere of life.
  • By contrast, they include very few or no questions on specific forms of discrimination, such as (sexual) harassment in the workplace. The same is true for questions about responses to such experiences or awareness of the relevant law.

A mixed picture also emerges when we look at the categories covered by the General Equal Treatment Act – AGG, against which the surveys can be evaluated. The following are some of the findings that invited criticism:

  • There was a notable absence of appropriate measuring tools to identify the groups of persons that are affected by racial discrimination; the distinction between persons with and without migrant background that most surveys have relied on so far, is inappropriate here.
  • Questions about sexual orientation only feature in few surveys and, in most cases, the sex-ofinterviewee category does not allow for trans* and intersexual persons. As a result, the problems unique to LGBTI* persons are likely to remain hidden.

Regarding the consideration of civil society principles for the collection of anti-discrimination and equality data, the following can be stated:

  • Most repeat surveys studied guarantee the principles of voluntary and anonymous participation – except for the obligation to respond in the microcensus.
  • Some surveys do not fully ensure the principle of self-identification. Especially the sex registered is mostly the result of external identification by the interviewers.
  • The calls for participation across all stages of the research process and the informed consent that goes with an increased need for information can only be realised to a limited extent when conducting population-wide cross-thematic surveys.
  • In some cases, it is possible to cover multiple identities, multiple discrimination and intersectionality.

Overall, the authors conclude that discrimination reporting schemes that match the scope of protection laid down in the AGG is not currently possible on this basis.

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