France commune

How will this work amid the Covid restrictions?

[Article updated January 26 at 16:35]

The annual census returns to France this week after being canceled in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

What is the census?

The census allows the State and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, INSEE, to establish the official number of inhabitants of each French municipality, as well as the facilities they have.

Thanks to the information provided, local authorities can work on the development of new services, whether shops, nurseries, public transport or housing, to meet the needs of the population.

It can also help the government to combat fraud in child benefit payments.

The census normally takes place every year in large cities and every five years in small towns.

“Each year, five million households and nine million people participate in the census. There is strong support for these surveys,” says Muriel Barlet, head of the demography department at INSEE.

Participants are asked about their date and place of birth, gender, nationality, address, marital status, qualifications and occupation.

How will it work this year?

The collection of information normally begins the third week of January, when agents trained by the municipality and INSEE visit each household in the town or village to distribute the documents to be completed.

Any household that constitutes a principal residence is required to participate under French law.

The census can take four to five weeks, depending on the size of the municipality. This year, it will last from January 20 to February 19 for municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and until February 26 for larger municipalities.

It is also possible to respond to the census online, and INSEE has specified that this will be the preferred mode of communication this year.

Completing the necessary forms via the Internet will reduce the number of people coming into contact with each other and with the same documents, while simplifying the system.

“Census officers will leave explanatory notices in mailboxes for people who choose to complete the census online, with access codes to the The census and me website,” the institute said.

This way, officers won’t have to knock on residents’ doors and talk to them in person.

However, if an individual does not have internet access, “an official will leave the questionnaires to be completed and come back to collect them a few days later. People who encounter difficulties will be able to access help by telephone.

What information should I provide?

If you complete the census online:

  • Have your opinion at your fingertips
  • Visit the The census and me page and enter your access code. You do not need to create an account
  • Follow the steps presented to you
  • The census should take about 25 minutes for a household of four

If you complete a paper census:

  • You will need to complete a red document including questions about your nationality, marital status, qualifications, etc.
  • You will then need to complete a blue form with questions about your housing situation
  • There will be around 30 questions to answer

Your answers will remain confidential.

You can see an example of a census questionnaire here.

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