June 7, 2023

Many people are afraid of official language

Many people are afraid of official language

According to a recent survey, many people are still bothered by the incomprehensible administrative language used by public authorities.

"Citizens are comparatively dissatisfied with the comprehensibility of forms and applications as well as the law on which they are based," read the representative survey commissioned by the federal government and published by the federal statistical office on friday. The results show that although the federal government, the states and the municipalities are aware of the problem, little has been done from the respondents' point of view.

Whether moving house, getting married or setting up a business – the survey asked citizens and companies how satisfied they were with government services in various areas. Good marks were given for incorruptibility and non-discrimination.

In surveys on the same topic in 2015 and 2017, citizens and companies were also less satisfied with the topic of official german. Since then, little has changed – while the average response from companies regarding the comprehensibility of forms and applications was 0.24 in 2017, the value for 2019 has only risen to 0.30.

The respondents were able to answer on a five-digit scale from -2 (very dissatisfied) to +2 (very satisfied). Especially when it comes to tax declarations, divorces or buying real estate, the respondents stumbled on hurdles, according to the responses. The respondents also saw room for improvement in waiting times and processing times.

When it came to problems of understanding, just under half of the respondents (48 percent) sought advice from the authorities themselves, while others went to the authorities' websites to obtain additional information. 32 percent asked relatives and acquaintances.

The survey also shows a need to catch up in terms of the digital services offered by the authorities; companies and citizens were less satisfied than average (2019: 0.5). The results were behind those of the previous survey (companies 2017: 0.76; citizens: 0.68). According to the survey, only one-fourth communicate with authorities online.

The president of the german chamber of industry and commerce, eric schweitzer, said the survey showed where things were not working well in germany: "in the comprehensibility of legal regulations and in public services. In many cases, this could be remedied without any major problems."

Minister of state hendrik hoppenstedt (CDU) said that since 2015, various initiatives have been taken by the federal government and the states to achieve improvements in the areas of e-governance and comprehensibility. The CDU politician coordinates the reduction of bureaucracy in the chancellor's office. Currently, various federal states are testing a simplified tax declaration for retirement income. "In addition, the finance ministers' conference has a "steering committee for citizen-friendly language" supported by the federal government and the states established," said hoppenstedt. Hoppenstedt explained that the time frame for the surveys meant that the efforts had not yet been reflected in the results. The interviews were conducted in early 2019.

As part of the implementation of the online access law, public administrations in germany must also offer their services online by the end of 2022.

On the subject of digital administration, the standards control council said there was great pressure to act. "E-government is and will increasingly become a location factor and is not only important for economic development in germany, but also for the satisfaction of citizens with the state and administration."This was also shown by the results of the survey.

In mid-june, the EU commission conducted a study to determine the availability and use of e-government services in the member states. According to the study, not even one in two internet users (43 percent) in germany uses forms of e-government; the average is 64 percent. Germany ranked 26th out of 28 EU member states.


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