Law n° 2002-276 of February 27, 2002 (articles 156 to 158) establishes the principles for conducting the census and disseminating the annual official population of every commune.
Council of State Decree n°2003-485, published in the Official Journal of June 8, 2003, defines the terms and conditions for the enforcement of the law. The decree of July 19, 2007 regulates the dissemination of the population census'results.
Population census is used to learn about France's diverse and changing population. It provides statistics on inhabitants and their characteristics: composition by sexe and age, occupation, housing conditions, means of transportation, commuting to work, commuting to study, etc.
The results are issues each year and are used:
- by the administrative and local authorities to tailor collective facilities: child care centres, hospitals, schools, sports facilities, transport, etc. and to develop local policies;
- by public and private professionals to improve knowledge of housing stock;
- by companies to have precise data in order to improve knowledge of potential customers or labour availabilities in a given geographical sector;
- by associations, especially those that deal with healthcare, social, educational and cultural fields, in order to better adjust their actions to the needs of the population.
Since 2004, the census is based on annual data collection, successively surveying all the municipal territories over a five-year period. This census, built on this method succeeds the general population censuses which 1999 was the last edition.
The first five census surveys were conducted from 2004 to 2008. They were used to produce the census results, dated 2006, i.e. the medium year.
Since that time, every year, census results are based on the five most recent annual surveys: discarding the information from the oldest survey and taking into account information from the new survey.