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French Census 2023 has begun: How it works

We explain what the census asks, how to know if you need to reply, how to fill it in if you need to, and where to find an English translation and help guide

A photo of the Insee logo in 2020

The census is coordinated by Insee and local authorities Pic: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock

The French population census for 2023 has begun in France, with residents receiving letters informing them of their need to participate in the obligatory statistical process.

The census is run by l’Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (Insee), with local communes. It aims to get a picture of the population, and its demographic makeup.

It also asks questions about age, the types of transport you use, and the conditions of your home.

The answers also help the government to allocate budget to local authorities, and important details such as how many local officials the town should have, whether there are enough pharmacies, schools or daycare places; and if hospital access and transport links are sufficient.

It is also used to check housing needs.

  • For towns with fewer than 10,000 residents, the census is done every five years, and includes all residents. 

  • For towns or cities with more than 10,000 residents, it is done every year, but among a representative sample of 8% of addresses, which change every year.

This year, for towns or villages with fewer than 10,000 residents, the census dates for mainland France are January 19 to February 18.

For those with 10,000 or more, the dates are January 19 to February 25.

Residents who must take part will be advised of this via letter from the Mairie a few days before a census agent will visit your house. The agent will have a card with the French tricolore flag on it, signed by the mayor, with a photo of themselves and their name. 

Anyone who comes to the door about the census must show you this card, and you can also check their identity by calling the Mairie. Filling in the census is completely free. Anyone, or any website, that asks for money, is a scam.

People required to take part must fill in the details on the website, or on paper. It is mandatory to respond.

If you are not able to respond online, you can ask the census agent for:

  • A housing questionnaire. This include questions about the state of your residence.

  • As many paper forms as you need for people living in the household. This includes questions about age, date of birth, nationality, education level, and professional life

  • Explanation leaflets available in multiple languages, including English, German, Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Turkish

Once you have filled in the forms, you can book an appointment to have them picked up.

All of the documents and forms included in the 2023 census can be seen on the website here. An explanation and extra details in English are available on the English language PDF here.

On its website, Insee explains: “Since 2004, the census has been based on an annual information collection, concerning all the communes with fewer than 10,000 people, and 40% of homes in communes of more than 10,000 residents, over the course of five years.”

Insee states that there were 68.04 million residents on January 1, 2023. This is a 0.3% rise compared to last year.

Second-home owners who have lived in France for less than a year at a time do not need to fill in the census.

Related articles

Do second-home owners need to take part in France’s 2022 census?
Census restarts in France: How will it work amid Covid restrictions?

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