Experiences of discrimination in Germany


Results of a representative survey and a survey of the people affected

- Factsheet on the research project -

Perception of discrimination

In everyday life, a situation will be rather perceived as discriminatory if:

  • the respondent feels personally affected, e.g. since he or she belongs to the same group which has been discriminated against,
  • the conduct of the party causing the discrimination seems to be illegitimate or the discrimination cannot be justified by any laws or standards,
  • the party concerned seems to deserve protection, e.g. because the damage caused by discrimination is very great for him or her.

Risk of discrimination

  • The differences in the extent of discrimination experienced by the German population depend on the particular discrimination characteristic.
  • That is also connected with the specific risk of discrimination for particular subgroups in society: for example, as ageism is not limited to specific age groups, a comparably large part of society is affected. With regard to other characteristics, however, it is clearly shown that certain subgroups are affected to an extent above average. For example, women report on incidents of discrimination on grounds of their gender five times as often as men.
  • Moreover, some subgroups of society run a higher general risk of experiencing discrimination across all characteristics surveyed. Thus, for example, people with disabilities or chronic diseases experience discrimination considerably more often than people without impairments - irrespective of a particular characteristic.
  • There were also many reports about forms of multidimensional discrimination, i.e. situations where those concerned had experienced discrimination on grounds of several characteristics at the same time. In the context of those multidimensional discrimination experiences, the focus is on gender as the cross-cutting category.

Experiences of discrimination in different spheres of life

  • The most frequent incidents of discrimination are reported to occur in working life, in public and/or during leisure time as well as in shops and/or the service sector. But also other settings with which many of the respondents are in contact rather seldom in their everyday life are comparably often reported to be places where discrimination has been experienced (e.g. public offices and authorities, the educational sector, the housing market).
  • Starting out from the outcome of the interviews with people affected, experiences of discrimination in seven selected areas of life are outlined in detail and illustrated by case descriptions. For the sphere of working life, experiences which are considered as discrimination are examined more closely, e.g. job applicants who are not employed, financial disadvantages within the scope of existing employment relationships and workplace bullying.
  • In addition, other analyses and case descriptions are included for the areas of shops and services, housing market, education, public and leisure time, health and long-term care as well as public offices, authorities and politics. In this context, it is also explained on grounds of which discrimination characteristics and in which spheres of life discrimination is experienced to an extent above average, and which forms of discrimination play a pre-eminent role.

Reactions to experiences of discrimination

  • In summary, it can be stated that nearly six out of ten people affected by discrimination have already reacted in one way or another to discrimination(s): a comparatively large share of them try to draw attention to the discrimination; other reactions directed against the party or incident having caused the discrimination are chosen rather seldom, as e.g. complaints submitted to an official body or initiating legal proceedings.
  • In cases where a reaction directed against the party or incident causing the discrimination is refrained from, the underlying decisive reasons are, in particular, doubts as to the efficiency of measures, fear of negative consequences as well as a lack of necessary resources (lack of knowledge and financial, emotional resources or limited time).
  • Indeed, the measures taken against the party or the incident causing the discrimination were frequently not successful: just around one out of five people who had taken measures against discrimination reported on positive outcomes (e.g. apologies, remedial action, punishment of the perpetrator).

Effects of experienced discrimination

  • From the point of view of the people affected, the majority of reported cases of discrimination experiences resulted in definitely negative outcomes. The reports most frequently stated that the people affected felt traumatized by constantly recurring memories of the incident in question and that the individual affected became more suspicious as a result of that experience.
  • Moreover, it was revealed that probably especially dramatic experiences of discrimination, such as physical assaults or a combination of financial disadvantages and social disparagements, are often also connected with particularly severe effects, such as impairments of mental and physical health.