Monday, February 7, 2022

Counting chickens and other census fun

French Village Diaries recensement counting chickens
Some of the residents of the village free range egg farm

Counting chickens

I’m just over halfway through census month, attempting to count how many of the 235 houses in the village are lived in full time and how many people live in them. I have made countless tours around the commune, on weekdays, weekends and at different times of the day (clocking up over 150km on my bike), speaking to as many people as possible and leaving gentle reminders. After an initial flurry of online responses, and several requests for the paper versions, I’m pleased to say only 10% of households have yet to respond. I now seem to have reached the point however, where it might be easier to individually count the 9000 chickens at the organic free range egg farm, than get the remaining households to fill in their forms. 


We are an international community, and the census applies to everyone who is a permanent resident, whatever their nationality, family situation or employment status, and whether they rent or own their property. I’m happy to report my fellow Brits have all been accounted for, requiring very little hassling. The Romanian builders who share a rented house were polite and welcoming, and thanks to a Romanian translation available from the national statistics office, all filled out their forms with no issues. Many of the older residents have been happy just to see someone at their door and have taken the time to spell out their names in slow, careful French (like you would when talking to a child) so I could fill in their forms for them. 


The ones I’m having a hassle with are the younger French families. Time and again I’m hearing the same story, “I work, I have children and I don’t have time to fill it in”. It takes about five minutes per person and another five minutes to complete the details about the house, and is carried out every five years. If they chose the online option, it can be done any time, not there and then when I knock at their door, which I appreciate might be an inconvenient time. Many of these families have children under ten who benefit from a gift from Père Noel every Christmas. The commune spend 25€ on each child and the shopping and delivering is all organised by a team of volunteers. One of the benefits of counting as many people as possible is that the more inhabitants we have, the more funding we will get from the State, so the more money we will have to spend in the commune budget. Can you tell that their apathy is beginning to irritate me slightly?

French Village Diaries recensement counting chickens volunteers
Our team of volunteers enjoying delivering the Christmas gifts


In the UK it is a legal requirement to complete the census and non-compliance carries a fine of up to £1000. In France it is obligatoire (obligatory), but I’ve yet to find out what (if any) the penalties are for those ‘who are too busy’. What about where you live, is there a census and is it compulsory to complete it?


For the next ten days, I will keep knocking, and reminding, and can only hope those who have promised me they will complete the form online, will remember to do so.


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