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What can employers do in order to protect their employees against sexual harassment? Does the use of algorithms entail a risk of discrimination? Do the provisions of the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG) on protection against discrimination in the housing market comply with European law?

These are some of the questions addressed by research conducted by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. The aim is to close research gaps and improve the data situation. However, the aim is also to identify shortcomings and raise awareness of discrimination among the public and decision-makers.
Our application-oriented research also provides concrete evidence on how to effectively prevent or eliminate discrimination.

Research as a statutory mandate

Conducting academic studies into discrimination is part of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency's statutory mandate pursuant to Section 27 of the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG). In order to fulfil this task, it regularly awards research contracts. Currently, it is preparing an expert opinion on the risks of discrimination in the health care sector, a collection of examples of good practice against sexual harassment in the workplace, a study on prevention and intervention to protect against discrimination in working life, expert opinions on how to deal with gender diversity in employment and occupation, and a study on the protection against discrimination in the access to goods and services.

Methods of discrimination research

Very different methods are used to approach research issues. Some studies focus on a topic covering various characteristics and fields, while others focus on individual dimensions of discrimination or areas of life.

In the context of target group surveys, the focus is often on the perspective of those who experience discrimination. Examples include the large-scale survey of people who have experienced discrimination in Germany and the recent survey conducted in 2019 on how sexual harassment in the workplace is addressed.

Key instruments are also population-representative surveys to gather opinions on various topics in society as a whole. In 2017, for example, a survey on attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people was conducted on behalf of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.

Another key responsibility is to prepare legal opinions, most of which deal with issues related to the provisions of the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG). Current examples of publications in this area include the expert opinion on the implementation of the EU Racial Equality Directive in the housing sector and the legal expertise on the need to clarify and expand the characteristics set out in the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG).

Some studies also deal with forms of institutional discrimination. A study conducted in 2017 analysed diversity measures and discrimination risks in public employment services.

Improving the data situation on discrimination

In addition to its own research projects, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is also working to improve the collection and use of anti-discrimination data in Germany as a whole. To this end, it has published an expert opinion that examines the contribution of representative repeat surveys (e.g. microcensus, SOEP) to measuring discrimination. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has also participated in an EU working group that has developed proposals on how member states can improve the availability and quality of equality data.

Funding for research projects

Another instrument for advancing research into discrimination in Germany is the funding of scientific research through grants. Currently, for example, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency provides funding for the Afrozensus (Afrocensus), a community-based survey on the situation and discrimination experienced by people of African origin in Germany. Another example of research funding is the study “Risks of Discrimination through the Use of Algorithms” at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS).

Reports to the German Bundestag

Our research provides an important basis for preparing reports to the German Bundestag. Every four years, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency together with the competent Federal Government and Parliamentary Commissioners presents a report on the state of discrimination (Section 27 (4) of the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG)). It also contains recommendations on how to prevent and eliminate discrimination. Click here for an overview of the reports published so far.

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