The results of the 2011 census were released in May and are causing concern. According to the online edition of Der Spiegel news weekly, the range of difference in population, when compared to existing figures, was between -42 and +230 percent. Census figures revealed a population drop in almost two-thirds of municipalities.
About 800 municipalities have so far officially objected to the census findings. And although the most populous states of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria have not yet launched official complaints, they have appealed to their local statistical offices to review the figures.
Should a significant number of municipalities bring the case to court, the results of the entire census could be called into question. Critics have challenged the methodology used by the statisticians and some have gone as far as to describe it as “unconstitutional”.
Behind the outcry is the fear that under Germany’s policy of allocating state funding in part according to population size, many places will lose out financially.
Outrage is most pronounced in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, where 365 mayors – that amounts to about a third of municipalities – have officially objected to the census findings.
In the city of Mannheim, where the census reported a drop in population of 7.5 percent, mayor Peter Kurz, who has set up a task force to re-count the city’s inhabitants, has described the census figures as “unlawful”.
According to the city’s own numbers, there were 302,000 people registered as living in Mannheim on census day in May, as opposed to the 290,000, claimed by the census. Kurz is now keen to account for the apparently missing 12,000.
However, that is likely to prove impossible, since rather than counting individuals, the census relied on complicated statistical measures which took into account various data, including figures from the Federal Employment Agency and public employer bodies.
Less than four percent of the estimated population was interviewed as a representative sample of the city.
Should the matter go to court, lawyers must determine whether the right to equal treatment and local self-governance, both enshrined in the constitution, have been infringed. If that turns out to be the case, census 2011 could be declared unconstitutional – and hence invalid.