The generic term "legal populations" includes the municipal population of each municipality along with its population counted apart and its total population, which is the sum of the two previous figures.
Legal populations are defined by decree No.2003-485 published in the Journal Officiel of June 8th 2003, concerning population censuses. They are now updated and certified by decree every year. Around 350 legislative or regulatory texts make reference to these population measures.
Municipal population is the figure used for statistical purposes; total population is the figure most frequently used in the implementation of legislative or regulatory measures.
Until 1999, legal population figures were determined at each general census of the population. They could be modified between censuses by means of a supplementary census.
Since 2008, the new census method based on annual census surveys allows annual calculation of updated legal populations.
Therefore the end of 2009 saw the publication of the legal population figures which came into force on January 1st 2010. These legal populations are referred to as the 2007 figures, as they are calculated on the basis of information collected during census surveys in 2005 and 2009, then assimilated to a single date: the year in the middle of that period. This ensures equal treatment for all municipalities.
The new census measures updating the legal population figures annually also replace the previous system of supplementary censuses.