Census: Annual Population Count in France

January each year the towns and households to be counted in that year's census are notified and residents are given forms to complete and return several weeks later...

France carries out an annual population census (recensement de la population) - a head count of everyone resident in the country. The process is managed by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques - INSEE) in cooperation with each town.

A census counts everyone resident in a property and in a town, regardless of their nationality or family relations with the home owner or primary tenant.

Not all people are counted each year. The data is gathered by sampling the population as follows:

  • Towns with a resident population under 10,000 are surveyed every five years
  • Towns with a resident population over 10,000 are counted annually through a survey of a sample of the population

Note: when a sample of residents is surveyed, neighbours or family members living at another address in the area may not necessarily be surveyed too - the selection is random.

Results of a census are available from the INSEE website and may be categorised by many factors. Look for "Résultats du recensement".

  • INSEE has more information on the process and to see which towns are counted (in French)

The Census Official

A census official is identified by a card bearing their photograph and signed by the mayor. Officials can help with completing forms - they are obligated to respect each person's privacy.

The census questionnaires

The census official delivers the census questionnaires to each household being surveyed. There are two questionnaires to be completed:

  1. Feuille de logement: A document with 15 questions concerning the house or apartment.
  2. Bulletin individuel: A personal form completed by each person usually living on the premises. There are 25 questions concerning age, place of birth, education and occupation.
    • INSEE has full details regarding the census (in English)

    All questionnaires are identical and contain the same questions. All answers are confidential and are only for statistical purposes; they are not used for any administrative (including tax) purposes.

    The questionnaires must be completed in full by all home occupiers. It will be collected by the census official, but can also be sent to the town council or the INSEE head office. The date for completion of the census forms will be marked clearly. Any person to be counted who is unable to complete the forms in time should contact their Town Hall.

    Obligations and Further Information

    Participation in a census is a legal obligation; any resident who is dissatisfied with the way they have been treated may take their concerns to the Town Hall (mairie).