Berlin and Hamburg lose court battle over Germany′s 2011 census | News | DW | 19.09.2018
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Berlin and Hamburg lose court battle over Germany's 2011 census

The 2011 census found that fewer people lived in Germany than previously thought, resulting in less money for Hamburg and Berlin. The city states argued the methods were unfair, but Germany's highest court disagrees.

The city states of Berlin and Hamburg were dealt a financial blow on Wednesday when Germany's Constitutional Court ruled that the 2011 census was carried out in accordance with the constitution.

Berlin and Hamburg lost millions in federal funding as a result of the lower population figures revealed by the census. The city states argued that the methods used in the census resulted in incorrect population data, since census workers did not go door-to-door surveying every resident as in previous censuses.

Judges at Germany's highest court disagreed, saying that the method used in 2011 was statistically sound.

The method was also more cost-effective and even better in protecting people's rights to privacy since only a fraction of residents rather than the entire population were interviewed, according to presiding top judge Andreas Vosskuhle.

The decision by Germany's highest court also dashed the hopes of other cities who felt wronged by the population survey. Some 340 cities across the country had cases pending in lower courts over similar census complaints.

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Less money for cities

The census put Germany's population at 80.2 million — which was 1.5 million fewer than the estimates at the time.

Since a portion of federal funding is tied to population data, the lower figures meant big financial losses, particularly for Germany's two largest cities.

After the census, Berlin's official population dropped by 180,000 — amounting to losses of between €470 million and €490 million ($549 million to $572 million) per year.

The census figures knocked 83,000 people off of Hamburg's population, with the city state losing over €100 million per year, as a result.

New census method under fire

The 2011 census was the first register-based population survey to be carried out in German history. Prior ones involved in-person tallies where census workers went door-to-door.

As opposed to previous years, only 10 percent of Germany's population was directly interviewed in the 2011 census.

The bulk of the data that year came from local population registers as well as data from Germany's Federal Employment Agency.

Local authorities have large pools of population information as people in Germany are required to register with local authorities when they move to a new town or city and are required to sign out again when they leave. Confusion over resident numbers often stems from people neglecting to do this.

The 2011 census was the first one to take place following German reunification. The lengthy delay between surveys was also cited as a reason for some of the surprising results. The next census is due to take place in 2021.

rs/msh (AFP, dpa)

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