Collection and Use of Data on Equality and Participation

The principle of equal treatment has been codified in various national and international legal instruments. As such the German General Equal Treatment Act (German: Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG) offers access to legal action on the grounds of unqual treatment in order to sanction individual discrimination.  
Apart from individual cases of discrimination, inequality may also occur on an institutional level, and therefore warrants equally close attention. For some time now a wide range of data has consistently been collected on the subject of discrimination against women, and people with disabilities.This has allowed for the identification of problem areas, as well as the implementation of targeted measures. Due to Germany’s historic background, the collection of data on racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural discrimination is a highly sensitive subject, and continues to cause controversial debate.
However, as the following example illustrates, the collection of data on equality and participation may be beneficial – provided that certain groundrules are followed.
In 2003, the PISA study reaffirmed that children with a migrant background have more limited opportunities in the education system when compared to children with no migrant background. This often results in poor learning successes. While this problem area had previously been identified, it was the collected data which helped to pinpoint the cause. The measures which were taken on the basis of these findings continue to show a positive impact, as confirmed by repeated monitoring.
This approach of goal-oriented data collection solely based on voluntary action, and self-categorisation in compliance with data protection regulation, may also serve to identify problem areas and adequate measures to be taken in other spheres of life where people are vulnerable to exclusion due to their ethnicity.
In concrete cases of discrimination statistics may sometimes even serve as evidence in legal proceedings.
In addition, as signatory to various human rights conventions, Germany has the duty to periodically submit relevant reports. This means that Germany needs to submit information regarding the composition of its population, occurences of discrimination, as well as the implementation of the principle of equality. As such data is only available to a limited degree, Germany has repetitively been reprimanded.

This dossier provides you with information regarding the collection and use of data on equality and participation.

In this dossier the starting point will be to introduce the concepts of equality and participation data, present previous practice, and elaborate on the possible data uses. Additionally, we will introduce the current legal framework for the collection of so-called ‘sentitive data’ in Germany. This includes personal dataattempting to represent ethnical categories, and which refers to political views, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.
Furthermore, we will introduce universal principles, which must be respected when collecting sensitive data.
Finally, we will present experiences from a number of countries with a tradition in collecting equality data, in which elaborate and pragmatic mechanisms and regulations have already been developed for the purpose of data collection and use.
In addition, we will offer a compilation of relevant materials on the subject.

You can find a printer-friendly version of this dossier here.