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Official statistics in Germany is characterised by a decentralised political system that divides the functions of government between the central government and 16 regional (Länder) governments. As a result, each region (Land) may have a statistical office of its own. Because some Länder merged their statistical offices, there are now 14 Länder offices in total. These offices are organisationally entirely independent institutions.
For the purpose of compiling most federal statistics (those ordered by a federal law), there is a predefined work sharing scheme between the offices. The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) as the central authority is responsible for the methodological and technical preparation of the surveys and for the compilation and publication of nationwide results. The statistical offices of the Länder are responsible for the core processes of statistical production. Despite that, there are also several cases in which Destatis collects and processes data itself, e.g. in the area of foreign trade.

It is an important feature of the statistical system in Germany that for every major statistical activity* a law has first to be passed by parliament. For those statistical activities that involve federal and Länder offices, both the federal parliament and the parliaments of the Länder have to be consulted. The laws usually specify who is legally obliged to provide the information and what information is sought.

Apart from the statistics compiled by the statistical offices, there are also some statistics that are produced by other official agencies. For example, some of the data on unemployment comes from the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur fuer Arbeit).

To organise the work in the "Verbund" - as the network of federal and Länder offices is known in German - a number of working groups exist with several governing committees on top. Senior governing committees are staffed with the heads of offices. Work sharing also extends to the area of IT-development. IT-systems that are to be used by all offices are put out to tender among the offices in the Verbund on the basis of an agreed business case (dubbed the "one for all"-policy).

Destatis itself is mostly organised according to subject areas and therefore resembles the classic case of a stovepipe organisation. There are currently six subject matter divisions and three central divisions. The central divisions deal with administration and legal questions (Division A), information technology (Division C) and management, dissemination and coordination issues (Division B). Methodological issues are split between Division C (mathematical methods) and Division B (research and development). More details can be found in the organizational chart (see here ).

* see 4.3 on the definition of statistical activity in official statistics in Germany




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