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Series: MZ


The Microcensus (MC) is an annual sample survey that yields representative official statistics on the population and the labour market in Germany. With a sampling fraction of 1% of the population, it is the largest household survey in Europe. The Microcensus has been conducted in West Germany since 1957 and in the new federal states (Bundesländer) since 1991. The population of the Microcensus comprises all persons in Germany who have the right of residence. The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is integrated into the Microcensus.

The survey programme of the Microcensus consists of a core programme that remains the same in each round. It furnishes basic socio-demographic data and facilitates the ongoing monitoring of the labour market. In addition to the variables in the core programme, which are collected annually, further information on topics such as education and training, current and previous job, and labour market participation is collected within the framework of supplementary programmes with varying sampling fractions. Since the 2005 Microcensus, the additional programmes have been implemented using the full one percent sample. Moreover, since 2005 the Microcensus includes ad hoc modules implemented within the framework of the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) with a sampling fraction of 0.1 %.


Geographical Coverage



Due to the federal organization of the German statistical system, the federal statistical office cooperates with the statistical offices of the Länder. The planning and preparation of the Microcensus is carried out by the Federal Statistical Office. The statistical offices of the Länder are responsible for conducting surveys and preparing the data.


All persons in Germany who have right of residence, living in private households or collective households, at their main and secondary residence. (The survey population does not include members of foreign armed forces or the diplomatic corps and their families. Because the Microcensus uses an area sampling design, homeless persons have no chance of inclusion in the survey.)


Sampling method:
single-stage stratified cluster sampling (since 1972)

Sampling fraction:
1 percent
Ad hoc modules (since 2005) 0.1 percent; EU labour force survey structural variables 2005-2011: 0.1 percent, from 2012 onwards: 1 percent

Sampling frame:

  • Old federal states: Census of Population (CP) (1970 CP: 1972-1989 MCs; 1987 CP: MCs from 1990 onwards)
  • New federal states and East Berlin (from 1991 onwards): Bevölkerungsregister Statistik (statistics derived from the central population register) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR)

The master sample drawn from the Census of Population or the GDR's population register is updated annually to include new buildings or dwellings. Since 1990, updating has been carried out by drawing a new-construction sample from building activity statistics. The sampling districts in the new-construction sample comprise six dwellings as compared to nine dwellings in the master sample. In the 1972–1989 rounds of the Microcensus, the supplementary sample was realised either on the basis of interviewers' reports of new construction activity in the sampled municipalities or on the basis of zoning maps.

Primary sampling units:
The sampling districts (primary sampling units) are artificially delimited areas (clusters) comprising, as a rule, neighbouring buildings; in the case of larger buildings, only the building, or a subdivision thereof, is included. Up to the 1989 Microcensus, a sampling district comprised, on average, 23 dwellings. To enhance regionalisability, the average size of the sampling districts was reduced in 1990. Since then, the average sampling district comprises 9 dwellings. The target size for sampling districts in the collective-household building stratum is 15 persons. All households (household members) resident in the sampled districts are interviewed.

Partial rotation:
Since 1977, each sampling district remains in the sample for four years. Each year, a quarter of the sampling districts are replaced by newly introduced sampling districts. [1974-1977: Rotation halves remained in the sample for two years; each year half of the sampling districts were replaced.] Households and persons who move away from the sampling district are not followed but rather replaced by households and persons moving into the sampling district. The Microcensus is therefore a repeat survey with partial overlapping of sampling units. The rotation quarter to which a respondent belongs is not identifiable in the basic and regional Scientific Use Files (SUFs). Since 1996, it has been legally possible to aggregate the cross-sectional data to form a panel data set. Two panel data sets are available as SUFs for panel analyses: 1996-1999 and 2001-2004.

Data Collection

As a rule, the survey data are collected via personal interviews (either paper-and-pencil interviewing (PAPI) with the help of a paper-based questionnaire or – since the 1990s – computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) using a laptop). CAPI has been universally used since the 2005 Microcensus. Some respondents (ca. 20%) complete a self-administered questionnaire. Sampled households and their members are obliged by law to provide information for the Microcensus. However, response to some items is voluntary. The Microcensus is a household survey. In other words, all members of the household are interviewed in person, or one adult member responds on behalf of the other household members, including all minors (proxy interview). The Microcensus also covers foreign households. The questionnaire employed is the same as that used to interview German households. The interviewers forward the data to the statistical offices of the federal states. Households who opt to complete a self-administered questionnaire send it to the statistical office of the federal state in which they are resident. Households that cannot be reached by the interviewers are contacted in writing by the statistical offices of the federal states and sent a self-administered questionnaire. The data are processed by the statistical offices of the federal states and aggregated into a single data set by the Federal Statistical Office.

Survey programmes:

1962-1972 [.pdf]

1973-1985 [.pdf]

1985-1995 [.pdf]

1996-2004 [.pdf]

2005-2016 [.pdf]

Ad-hoc-Modules since 2005:

  • 2005 Reconciliation between work and family life
  • 2006 Transition from work into retirement
  • 2007 Work related accidents, health problems and hazardous exposure
  • 2008 Labour market situation of migrants
  • 2009 Entry of young people into the labour market
  • 2010 Reconciliation between work and family life
  • 2011 Employment of disabled people
  • 2012 Transition from work into retirement
  • 2013 Accidents at work and other work-related health problems
  • 2014 Labour market situation of migrants and their immediate  descendants
  • 2015 Work organisation and working time arrangements
  • 2016 Young people on the labour market


Guidelines for the Factual Anonymization of Particular Statistical Microcensus Information (From the appendix to the standard contract of the Federal Statistical Office regarding the dissemination of Microcensus data)

  1. In accordance with the Microcensus Act, direct identifiers, such as personal identification numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, or any other official numbers that permit identification of persons from the data may not be distributed. Therefore, they may not be contained in the data file.
  2. The dataset must be transmitted in an unsystematic order.
  3. Only a randomly generated 70% subsample may be distributed.
  4. The only direct regional data to be given are those of the respective German state.
  5. In the "community size" category, no individual community with a population of less than 500,000 may be identifiable. If there are multiple communities in the same category, they must together comprise at least 400,000 inhabitants in every German state.
  6. The citizenship or nationality of groups in the Federal Republic of Germany with less than approximately 50,000 persons are not to be identifiable.
  7. In its univariate distribution within the statistical population, each category trait must include an aggregate of at least 5,000 cases. If this precondition is not met, then a statistically appropriate simplification or aggregation is needed in order to reach the required number of cases.

Item 3: The Microcensus Scientific Use File (SUF) is a de-facto anonymised 70 percent subsample of the households in the Microcensus. In survey years in which the additional programme on the housing situation is implemented, a 70% subsample of dwellings rather than households is drawn. From 2012 onwards sampling districts within a rotation quarter are used as sampling units for the 70% subsample. The de facto anonymised subsample is a systematic random sample drawn from the original data of the Federal Statistical Office. To this end, the data are sorted by reporting quarter (since 2005), federal state, subsample identifier (since 2008), administrative district (Regierungsbezirk), municipality size class (Gemeindegrößenklasse) (since 2006), number of persons in private households, sampling district number, and number of the household (in the case of Microcensuses that include an additional programme on the housing situation: dwelling number). This configuration ensures that the subsample displays only minor random deviations with regard to the aforementioned variables. In the case of collective households, each person is allocated a personal serial (household or dwelling) number. The unit position of the household or dwelling number is used to draw the sample. All households (dwellings) whose unit position corresponds to one of three randomly selected one-digit numbers are not included in the sample (30% of households or dwellings).

Legal Basis

Surveys for official statistics are regulated by the Federal Statistics Law. Since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, several federal statistics laws have been enacted: the StatGes 1953, the BStatG 1980, as well as the currently valid BStatG 1987. The Federal Statistics Law of 1987 also regulates data circulation for scientific purposes, i.e. the law contains the legal principles which allow data circulation for scientific purposes in the form of a Scientific Use File.


Microcensus Law

For the implementation of specific federal statistics, an additional specific legal principle is needed. The legal basis of the Microcensus is the Microcensus Law. For the Microcensuses between 1996 and 2004, this was the Microcensus Law of 1996. Since the end of January 2005 it has been replaced by the Microcensus Law of 2005. See Lüttinger/Riede, 1997 [.pdf] and Emmerling/Riede 1997 [.pdf].(in German).





Extrapolation in the Microcensus follows a two-stage procedure. The first stage – correction, or compensation, for non-response – entails extrapolating from the net sample of successfully surveyed households to the gross sample of all households on the basis of the design weight. In the second stage – adjustment – the weighted sample is adjusted to conform to benchmark figures from the intercensal population estimates (laufende Bevölkerungsfortschreibung). Depending on the methods used, the two-stage procedure yields different extrapolation factors for the individual survey years.

Data Access

Access Conditions

Microcensus Scientific Use Files can be ordered for a commitment fee from the Research Data Centres of the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the federal states. Since 1st of January 2011, the commitment fee is 250 euros per file and survey year. The researchers who are authorized to access and use the data must be obligated to maintain confidentiality. This special obligation usually applies to civil servants (university); otherwise, it has to be carried out by the Federal Statistical Office. Furthermore, the institution/researcher that receives the data has to establish technical and organizational data security measures.

It must be stated that due to legal reasons (according to § 16, Abs. 6 - 8 BStatG), the anonymized individual data cannot be circulated to institutions beyond the Federal Republic of Germany. Microcensus guidelines restrict the place of data usage to Germany. However, foreign researchers, under approved, special circumstances, have the opportunity to work with the data at the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the Länder. According to § 16 Abs. 6 of the federal Statistics Law of 1987 (see below), official individual data may be circulated to independent scientific researchers for the implementation of scientific projects. In the guidelines for the factual anonymization of statistical individual information, specific procedures for the operationalization of the Microcensus have been defined.

The relevant passages 6-8 of §16 BStatG 1987 from factually anonymized microdata which can be circulated to researchers are:

(6) Für die Durchführung wissenschaftlicher Vorhaben dürfen vom Statistischen Bundesamt und den statistischen Ämtern der Länder Einzelangaben an Hochschulen oder sonstige Einrichtungen mit der Aufgabe unabhängiger wissenschaftlicher Forschung übermittelt werden, wenn die Einzelangaben nur mit einem unverhältnismäßig großen Aufwand an Zeit, Kosten und Arbeitskraft zugeordnet werden können und die Empfänger Amtsträger, für den öffentlichen Dienst besonders Verpflichtete oder Verpflichtete nach Absatz 7 sind.

(7) Personen, die Einzelangaben nach Absatz 6 erhalten sollen, sind vor der Übermittlung zur Geheimhaltung besonders zu verpflichten, soweit sie nicht Amtsträger oder für den öffentlichen Dienst besonders Verpflichtete sind. § 1 Abs. 2, 3 und 4 Nr. 2 des Verpflichtungsgesetzes vom 2. März 1974 (BGBl. I S. 469, Artikel 42), das durch Gesetz vom 15. August 1974 (BGBl. I S. 1942) geändert worden ist, gilt entsprechend. Personen, die nach Satz 1 besonders verpflichtet worden sind, stehen für die Anwendung der Vorschriften des Strafgesetzbuches über die Verletzung von Privatgeheimnissen (§ 203 Abs. 2, 4, 5, §§ 204, 205) und des Dienstgeheimnisses (§ 353 b Abs. 1) den für den öffentlichen Dienst besonders Verpflichteten gleich.

(8) Die aufgrund einer besonderen Rechtsvorschrift oder der Absätze 4, 5 oder 6 übermittelten Einzelangaben dürfen nur für die Zwecke verwendet werden, für die sie übermittelt wurden. In den Fällen des Absatzes 6 sind sie zu löschen, sobald das wissenschaftliche Vorhaben durchgeführt ist. Bei den Stellen, denen Einzelangaben übermittelt werden, muss durch organisatorische und technische Maßnahmen sichergestellt sein, dass nur Amtsträger, für den öffentlichen Dienst besonders Verpflichtete oder Verpflichtete nach Absatz 7 Satz 1 Empfänger von Einzelangaben sind.

Die als Scientific Use File zur Verfügung stehenden Mikrozensus-Daten können zu einer Bereitstellungsgebühr bei den Forschungsdatenzentren der Statistischen Ämter des Bundes und der Länder bestellt werden; ab 1.1.2011 beträgt die Bereitstellungsgebühr 250 Euro pro Statistik und Erhebungsjahr.

For further information see: http://www.forschungsdatenzentrum.de/datenzugang.asp

Access Form

Application form [in German]

Access Contact

Forschungsdatenzentrum der Statistischen Ämter der Länder
- Geschäftsstelle -
c/o Information und Technik Nordrhein-Westfalen
Postfach 10 11 05
40002 Düsseldorf

Forschungsdatenzentrum des Statistischen Bundesamtes
- Forschungsdatenzentrum -
Gustav-Stresemann-Ring 11
65180 Wiesbaden

Data Service

German Microdata Lab (GML), GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Person to contact: Bernhard Schimpl-Neimanns (bernhard.schimpl-neimanns@gesis.org)


Comparability over Time

In 2005 the mode of data collection was changed and data was no longer collected during a set timeframe but for the entire year. Due to this change results from 2005 onward are only partially comparable to prior studies. In order to improve the implementation of the ILO Labour-Force-Concept since 2005 the questions on labor force participation as well as the field work were adapted. Comparisons over time thus might be influenced by changes in methodology (For more information consult: Statistisches Bundesamt, 2012: Methodeninformation. Mikrozensus und Arbeitskräfteerhebung: Ergebnisse zur Erwerbstätigkeit ab dem Jahr 2011. Wiesbaden [.pdf] (in German)). The unequal distribution of interviews over the reporting period leads to systematic errors. This methodological report (in German) contains additional information [.pdf](in German). Further information can be found on the pages for the respective Microcensus study as well as in the Microcensus quality reports.

Comparability between Countries

The integrated EU-Labour Force survey allows for comparisons with other EU member states. The microcensus data allows for comparisons at the level of Bundesländer as well as more fine grained regional units.