Date of last update: February 06, 2013
Source1 : Insee - Division "Enquêtes et études démographiques"
The current French system for civil registry statistics is based on the legislative framework put in place at the Revolution. From this time, births, marriages and deaths have been systematically recorded in municipal registers; previously, such records had existed in the form of parish registers kept in the diocese.
Since 1792 mayors, in their role as civil registrars, have been responsible for maintaining the register and recording new acts. As legislation has evolved other civil acts have been added to the register, covering events such as divorce, legal recognition and adoption. Divorce and separation judgements are not civil acts, but are recorded as side notes in the civil register. Only reconciliation is considered a civil act.
It is on these foundations that the data collection system for births, legal recognition of children, marriages, divorces and deaths has been built in France, a useful tool for analysing the demographic situation and its evolution.
Civil acts come under title II of the first book of the Civil Code, which obliges citizens to declare any event relevant to civil status to a civil registrar within the prescribed deadlines. It is the local mayor who holds this responsibility, except in specific cases. Mayors may delegate the task to an assistant, a town councillor or a municipal employee.
The civil registrar must record all of the legal events which occur in the municipality (births, marriages, deaths, legal recognition). Additionally, certain acts which have taken place elsewhere, or have been subject to an authenticated deed or judgement must be transcribed onto the municipal register (transcription of the death certificate of any person living in the municipality but dying elsewhere, transcription of any act of adoption) or noted in the margin for acts taking place in the municipality (side note of births or marriages of those involved in a divorce judgement, for example).
The regulations defining the establishment of the registers, their safekeeping, updating, consultation, and the content and the format of the data are set out in legislative and regulatory texts. These regulations are reiterated for the benefit of official registrars in the guideline document «General Instructions for the Civil Register» prepared by the Civil Affairs Directorate and the Ministry of Justice.
Individual municipal authorities are free to organise their registry procedures as they see fit. Generally, larger towns have various types of register according to the type of act being recorded, or even various registers of the same type, with smaller municipalities maintaining a single register in which all acts are written one after the other, as and when they happen, whatever the event may be.
Centralised statistical information relies on the good upkeep of the civil registers in individual municipalities: civil registrars fill in a questionnaire known as the ?Civil Registry Bulletin? each time they record a birth, marriage or death on their registers, and in some cases when adding a side note to an act which is already registered. Each act has a number allocated in order from 1st January until 31st December of each year. This number is noted on the statistical bulletin, ensuring that all bulletins are tracked.
Some statistical bulletins contain questions relating to information which does not appear either in the act or any dossier attached to the act. In such cases the civil registrar must ask the declaring party directly.
Some information on the bulletins is also used by INSEE to manage the National Directory for the Identification of Natural Persons (RNIPP), for which it is responsible. This role guarantees good coverage of civil registry statistics, particularly of births and deaths, and a relatively quick centralisation of information.
New types of bulletins have been drafted and transmitted by INSEE since 2008. The main differences between these new bulletins and the existing documents are changes intended to standardise and harmonise personal questions asked in the bulletins (declaratory judgement of death, and death or birth, declaratory judgement of birth and stillbirth). The questions follow the structure of information within the act, with the father's details placed before those of the mother.
The legal status of children has been greatly simplified to take into account the law on surnames. The judgement bulletin has been split into three according to whether it concerns a declaratory judgement of birth, a declaratory judgement of death or a declaratory judgement of full adoption. The recognition bulletin has been removed; recognitions before birth are recorded in the birth bulletin and those after birth in the side note bulletin which has been extensively modified.
All births which take place on French territory must be recorded in the civil registry. This declaration must be made within three days of the birth, the day of birth not being counted in this deadline. Additionally, if the last day is a public holiday, the deadline is extended until the first business day after the public holiday.
Until March 1993, if the child was alive at the moment of declaration, a birth was registered. Otherwise, a stillbirth was registered, whether or not that was the case. A birth bulletin (template 5) was established for any birth declaration registered.
Thereafter the civil registrar registered a declaration of birth if the child was breathing. Otherwise, a stillbirth was registered. Consequently, the title of the bulletin (template 5) has changed: it is a birth bulletin (instead of bulletin of a child declared living) which is drafted for every record of a birth declaration.
The record is made in the Commune where the birth took place. Documentation is required from the declaring party, and wherever possible is checked against the family register.
In line with article 79-1 para. 2 of the civil code, the establishment of a declaration of stillbirth is no longer dependent on the weight of the foetus, or the length of the pregnancy, but on the production of a medical certificate confirming that a birth took place. Before March 1993, if the child was dead at the point of the declaration, the civil registrar never had to draft a death declaration. This act could still be drafted if the declaration was made more than three days after the birth.
Since March 1993, a declaration of stillbirth can only be drafted if it is not confirmed that the child was born alive and viable.
This is the case when:
Further legislative changes came in 2008. Decree n°2008-800 of 20th August 2008 redefined our notion of stillbirth. Under the new system a stillbirth is recorded on the basis of a medical certificate of delivery. The criteria of gestation period, 22 weeks of amenorrhoea and 500g weight are no longer taken into account.
Since March 1993 a stillbirth bulletin (model 6) has replaced the former «child declared deceased» bulletin. Like its predecessor, this bulletin is drawn up whenever a stillbirth is recorded on the civil register. The event is recorded on the registry of the municipality where the child was born, or where the child was first observed to be deceased. Further information is requested from the declaring party.
A marriage bulletin (model 2) is drawn up whenever a marriage is recorded on the civil register, with the act recorded on the register of the municipality where the marriage was celebrated.
When a child is born out of wedlock, parents must officially recognise their child to establish their legal kinship. This recognition can be recorded before or after the birth. Since the order of July 4th 2005, coming into effect in July 2006, the mother is no longer required to recognise the child, as this recognition is considered automatic.
A bulletin of marginal notes recorded in the municipal registers allows for tracking of post-birth recognitions; pre-birth recognitions are noted in the birth record bulletin. A child may be recognised more than once; each recognition must be recorded in a bulletin of marginal notes.
Due to a change in the way recognitions are electronically processed, which took place in 1993, the civil registry files are incomplete for the years 1993 ? 1995.
Death certificates are recorded in the municipality where the death occurred. The civil registrar completes a carbon-copy file including a death bulletin (model 7, anonymous to respect medical confidentiality) which will be transferred to the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) via the Departmental Directorate for Health and Social Action (DDASS), as well as an identified death bulletin (model 7bis) which is sent to the INSEE.
The registrar records on the death bulletin (model 7) all information required for the mortality statistics, except the cause of death which is not declared. The cause of death is given on a confidential death certificate prepared by the doctor who declared the death (designated doctor of the civil registry, or a family doctor fulfilling this role) and then sealed. This certificate is attached to the copy of the death bulletin (model 7) sent to DDASS.
The INSEE then processes the death bulletin 7bis (correcting any anomalies) and sends a list of bulletins received to Inserm. Inserm will already have received the confidential medical certificate, using this act to check that the information received by both institutions is complete. INSEE subsequently contacts municipal registrars to request any death bulletins which have been recorded by Inserm but not sent to INSEE.
Certain events occurring outside the bounds of the municipality, or recorded elsewhere in authentic legal acts or judgements, must be transcribed into the municipal records. Since September 2008, there are now three different types of transcription bulletin to cover different circumstances: full adoption judgement (model 1a), birth (model 1b) and death or disappearance (model 1c). Previously there was only one template transcription document.
Additionally, certain events must be recorded in marginal notes added to acts already drawn up in the municipality: for example, a change in surname will be recorded in the margin of all birth certificates, and divorce judgements will be recorded in the margins of the birth certificates of both spouses and the marriage certificate. Since September 2008, only certain specific marginal notes are communicated to INSEE via the marginal notes bulletin (model 3): changes to the civil status fields of a birth certificate, information relating to marriages and recognition of children, changing of a recorded date of death on death certificates and any notes which annul a previously issued birth or death certificate.
Previously, a marginal notes bulletin included more specific details of the nature of the note (10 categories).
Civil registry statistical bulletins bear a signature as provided by the law of June 7th 1951, making it compulsory to answer all questions and protecting all answers under the terms of statistical confidentiality. Only one copy of a statistical bulletin should be made, for transfer to the regional INSEE office within whose remit the municipality falls.
To ensure that every new-born child is issued immediately with a Carte Vitale, and to ensure that citizens are registered with only one social security authority, the April 1996 Social Security Ordinances established the National Inter-Authority Register of Health Insurance Beneficiaries (RNIAM). This register is managed by the National Retirement Insurance Fund for Salaried Workers (CNAVTS). In application of decree n° 96-793 of 12th September 1996, the RNIAM is compiled from the National Register for the Identification of Natural Persons (RNIPP) which ensures correct identification of citizens on the basis of civil registry bulletins, for all persons born in mainland France or an overseas department (DOM).
The RNIAM is more far-reaching than the RNIPP, including as it does those social security beneficiaries and their dependents that were not born in France. The arduous nature of updating the RNAIM daily with information from new birth certificates has given rise to a new system of electronic data management for civil records, with digital communication between INSEE and the registry offices.
Municipal registry offices therefore send daily bulletins to the INSEE with details of births (template 5), weekly bulletins for deaths (template 7bis) and monthly communications for marriages (template 2) and stillbirths (template 6). Electronic bulletins are transmitted directly to the INSEE data centre (as digital files, or stored on discs). Bulletins remaining in paper form are sent to the relevant regional INSEE office. Registry offices also send daily death record bulletins along with death certificates (template 7) to their local DDASS.
INSEE then encodes the data, converting the answers from the various bulletins into numerical data, checking that the bulletins are complete and checking the internal consistency of data recorded on the same bulletin.
Until 1997, only events declared and registered in the municipalities of mainland France where taken into account during the statistical processing of civil registry files. Since 1998, these statistical operations now include acts declared and recorded in the overseas departments (DOM), for overall results by département and by region.
The codes used in civil registry bulletins to represent socio-professional categories are taken from the nomenclature of professions and socio-professional categories, the PCS. The answers to some questions are not used directly, but serve to determine other variables. As such, there are two questions on professional activity (profession and status). The answers, taken as a whole, allow us to assign a «socio-professional category» code. This codification system went automatic in 1998, and thus post-1998 results are not directly comparable with results from before the change.
Respondents who are currently unemployed are asked to list their former occupation.
The codes used in civil registry bulletins to designate nationality have changed over time. Up until 1997, the nomenclature of nationalities used was a specific nomenclature. Since then, the nomenclature taken from the population census has been used for this purpose.
The use of death and marriage record bulletins to update the RNIPP ensures that the civil registry statistics covered are comprehensive. Electronic data management and concentrating birth certificates in a number of municipalities also helps make the data comprehensive. There are, however, «collection lacunae» in the reporting of marriage bulletins. The data sent by municipalities are therefore rectified with the help of a specific annual survey conducted since 2001 in a sample of municipalities. This survey studies the number of acts recorded by the municipal registrar, and by extrapolation we can assess how comprehensive the communication of statistical bulletins has been across all municipalities, thus adjusting our marriage statistics with a simple «margin calibration» (a standard adjustment method).