E.U. criticism

Don't Count on German Statistics

Is the number up at Germany's statistical offices?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany may have broken E.U. rules by appointing non-statisticians to lead agencies and not advertising positions externally.

  • Facts


    • Job adverts for statistical agency heads in some German states do not demand statistical knowledge.
    • There are suggestions that some German state statistics may have been sugarcoated in the past.
    • The European Union may introduce a new rule making a statistical qualification a requirement.
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Official figures don’t lie – at least not in Germany. Or do they?

The European Union doubts whether the statistical agencies of Germany’s 16 states are truly independent, because of the way in which agency bosses are selected. “The appointment procedures for the directors of the German state statistical offices are not in conformity” with E.U. principles, according to a letter dated April 7 from the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board to Germany’s federal interior minister, Thomas de Maizière.

The reason for the complaint is that the heads of the state agencies are not required to demonstrate any knowledge of statistics. Besides, there are usually no external application processes that would provide transparency for the public.

The quality of official statistics should not be taken for granted, as the European Union has recently learned, especially through the unpleasant example of Greece. The government in Athens repeatedly falsified its national deficit ratio for years, a practice that eventually triggered the euro debt crisis in 2010.

No one suspects that any such deliberate manipulation has taken place in Germany, and yet there have been discussions over whether official figures may have been sugarcoated. Some of the figures in question are unemployment statistics and the rate of inflation.

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