A Google Translation – useful but not accurate
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In Germany the federal bureau of statistics had to reduce the official numbers of inhabitants by 1 ½ million down from 81.8 million because of statistical inaccuracies. The corrections came because of a census survey carried out in May 2011, the first census in 23 years. The official number of Germans in 2011 was 80,2 million.

Dieter Sarreihter, vice-president in the federal office of statistics in Germany, explained that the last time West Germany had had a census was back in 1987 and for East Germany it was done in 1982, and all calculations until 2011 had been extrapolations of these censuses. 

Extrapolations are often used in forecasting.  But if we wanted to establish how big the numbers of inhabitants are today, we would have to add births and subtract deaths and adjust for immigration and emigration numbers. This approach is simple, if you have the numbers. But when forecast or “count backwards” is undertaken, lots of factors can spoil the accuracy. In the case of Germany the inaccuracy was 2%. And being the EU’s biggest country the result was a deficit of 1,6 million. Overnight the Germans became “richer” than anticipated because calculated indicators, like GDP per capita, where the population is divided into another indicator. So the CO2-emission per capita was also increased.

The question remains why don’t the Germans know exactly how many inhabitants the state has?


If you ask Rita Lange, Head of Department at the Danish Bureau of Statistics, how many people are living in Denmark, she answers is that on the first of April 2013 there were 5.605.836 people. The accuracy of this statement is due to the fact, that the Bureau track how many there are registered at registry offices.  They get reports of births, deaths, immigrants, emigrants, changes of address between regions in Denmark and enter it into the database on a daily basis. It is a citizen obligation to report these changes to the authorities. All the Nordic countries have this system of registry offices. Of course there is a possibility of overestimating the number of inhabitants in a smaller scale due to inaccuracies. The main sources of error are the people leaving the country as there is not the same economic stimulus to report to the authorities as when people are arriving. A system only based on a big census  survey is rather inaccurate as often people are counted twice because of migrations between the countries.

Source:  A Danish award winning radio/TV-program called´”Detektor” (June 2013).  The program “detects” and analysis outspoken numbers from private and public organisations and from the media and  Government.

/Marianne Hjortlund 11/2013.