I'm trying to get an engineering post doc which I will conduct at a company's R&D labs, however I need to jump through all of the sponsoring university's hoops. I just received their application form and some of the questions are very personal. I thought such questions would be illegal in any European country. Are questions like your marital status, number and name of your children, date, place of birth...normal? The number of ways a candidate maybe discriminated against based on their responses would be exponential.
No, it is not "normal". According to the French labor code:
Les informations demandées, sous quelque forme que ce soit, au candidat à un emploi ne peuvent avoir comme finalité que d'apprécier sa capacité à occuper l'emploi proposé ou ses aptitudes professionnelles.
Ces informations doivent présenter un lien direct et nécessaire avec l'emploi proposé ou avec l'évaluation des aptitudes professionnelles.
Translated by myself:
The only purpose of any question asked, under any form, to a candidate for a job must be to evaluate their ability to perform their work duties or to evaluate their professional aptitude.
These questions must have a direct and necessary link with the offered job or with the evaluation of professional aptitude.
It is straight up illegal to ask these question (and it has been since at least 2008). You shouldn't answer them, and provide them a link to the labor code (and perhaps offer to call the labor inspectors to clarify the situation) if they get upset. Your age, your marital status, your possible children have no bearing on your ability to perform your duties as a postdoc (there are some exceptions, postdoc is certainly not one of them).
Now, is it "normal" in the sense that it is the norm? Employment law is unfortunately not the best-respected law around here...
No it is not normal. These question are not posed by an university office in France ( the same probably applies in most of Europe , surely in Italy and Austria as well) as far as professional competence and attitude must be evaluated.
It is likely that the university has provided you with formular emanating from immigration offices, inherent to getting a stay in France as prerequisite or concomitant requisite to obtain a post doc position.
If you are EU citizen than our work laws and workers protecting laws are indeed in danger if not already totally dismantled...
When applying to US and UK, I remember answering questions regarding to race, disability etc. Of course, it was mentioned that this information is collected only for ensuring that there is no discrimination (for this, you need statistics), and probably the people deciding who to hire did not see that (I hope). So yes, it seems to be normal that you may be asked some weird questions.
In fact this is normal. In France, public employees can have more money if they have children. Wife and children health care can also be managed by the university.
So university will need all information about your familly. It's not legal to use it to decide to take you or not, but you have to give it if they hire you.