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Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency

Dear attendees,
ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank you very much for your interest in the study "Discrimination in Germany" - the largest survey that has ever taken place in Germany on the subject of discrimination.

Why did we commission this study - and what are we actually talking about when we talk about discrimination?

Let me start with the latter point. This year - more precisely on August 18, 2016 - it will be ten years since there was a General Equal Treatment Act in Germany. The coming into force of this law, as some of you will remember, was almost traumatic for some of the parties involved. There were delays, impending infringement proceedings from Brussels - and warnings and fears that this law would negatively affect Germany. The business associations warned of risks worth billions, an FDP politician predicted that this law would become. And a CDU politician even called the law one.

The core message of the "AGG" was and is actually quite simple. It states that nobody in Germany may be disadvantaged just because they have a disability, are “too old” or “too young” or have a non-German ethnic origin. Discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual identity or religion or belief is also prohibited. In the event of such discrimination, the law provides for claims for compensation and damages.

What does this mean in reality? How do those affected experience discrimination? In addition to an in-depth evaluation of the law, which we will present in the summer, in this anniversary year we also and especially want to deal with people who experience discrimination. We commissioned this study in order to let those affected have their say and to find out where there are still deficits. Basically, we wanted to know how and where people experience disadvantage - whether in the work environment, in everyday life or at schools, for example. And how that affects those affected.

Of course, we were able to gather a lot of expertise on this before this survey. Since 2012, we have organized five themed years on the individual discrimination features, in each of which we have also set specific research priorities - last year, for example, on the topics of gender, gender identity and sexual harassment, this year on religion and worldview.

As a counseling center, we have also gained a lot of our own insights. Of our total of 14,160 cases, around 27 percent relate to disability, 23 percent to ethnic origin and gender, 20 percent to age and around 5 percent each to sexual orientation as well as religion and belief. However, these figures are in no way representative. It is well known that only a fraction of those affected turn to a counseling center at all.

Comprehensive knowledge of the extent and the individual dimensions of experiences of discrimination could only be obtained through a large-scale survey like this one, about which Prof. Naika Foroutan and Steffen Beigang from the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research will tell you more about it in a moment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the research team for the very good and constructive cooperation.

Let me already introduce the four most important points from my point of view. You will find the individual points as well as all important facts and figures in the handout in the present press documents.

First. Experiences of discrimination are widespread in Germany. The clarity of this finding was surprising to us. Almost a third of people in Germany (31.4 percent) have, according to their own statements, experienced discrimination in the past two years on the basis of one of the characteristics mentioned in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). So discrimination affects not just a few, but a significant part of the population.

Secondly. Discrimination takes place for very different reasons. Disadvantage due to age is relatively common: 14.8 percent of people in Germany were affected by it in the last two years, both young and older.
The high number of experiences of discrimination due to age in an increasingly aging society underscores the great need for action here.

Third. Discrimination occurs in all areas of life, but particularly frequently when it comes to access to employment or at work. Almost half of those who have experienced discrimination in the past two years report being disadvantaged in this context (48.9 percent).
In working life, discrimination based on age or gender or gender identity is reported comparatively frequently. Disadvantages due to sexual orientation or for racist reasons, on the other hand, occur more frequently than average in public or in leisure time (e.g. on the street, in public transport or in sports clubs).

Fourth and last. Experiences of discrimination do not go unchallenged. Six out of ten people (59.6 percent) who have experienced discrimination react to experiences of discrimination, although the strategies for action can be very different. A comparatively large number of those affected (27.4 percent) try to draw attention to the discrimination, and every sixth person affected (17.1 percent) claims to have complained to an official body. 13.6 percent used counseling offers; around six percent of people with experience of discrimination have filed a lawsuit.

Before our research team delves into these trends, let me draw some initial conclusions from these findings.

Ten years after the General Equal Treatment Act came into force, we can say that people are sensitized to the issue of discrimination. They experience discrimination - and the majority of them do not accept it. The only difference is that actually successfully defending yourself against discrimination is still difficult in Germany. If someone is not a nervous lone fighter or an unshakable lone fighter, then a well-organized lobbying group is required in order not to have to take action against one's own employer alone. It is no wonder that most of the lawsuits, for example, on age discrimination against members of the public service or members of strong individual trade unions - for example in the case of the so-called pilot decision of the European Court of Justice on age limits at Lufthansa.

If we look at other discrimination features - such as religion or ethnic origin - we see that there are comparatively few lawsuits and therefore comparatively few fundamental judgments against discriminators. We need such fundamental judgments, however, in order to really put a stop to discrimination and to allow the law to take effect in practice.

Dear Sir or Madam, Without anticipating the results of our evaluation of the General Equal Treatment Act, which we will present in the summer, one thing can already be stated today: We must clearly strengthen those affected in the fight against disadvantage. From my point of view, this includes informing those affected about the legal options and defending themselves against discrimination. This is not only done by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, but fortunately also more and more countries that have set up their own anti-discrimination agencies. But this also includes not leaving those affected alone in enforcing the law. A right of action for the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency and for anti-discrimination associations could help here. In order to effectively counteract discrimination, however, we must also look at the addressees of prohibitions of discrimination. Employers, for example, have to comply with their legal obligation to protect against discrimination. And above all, they should recognize the benefits of diverse workforces, as many companies are already doing today.

Thank you for your attention.