Skip to content

Census gives insights into characteristics of the population in Wales

Released: 11 December 2012 Download PDF

Characteristics of the Wales population at national and local authority level are published today from the latest findings of the 2011 Census in England and Wales, conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

They supplement the population figures first published in July 2012, which put the total population of Wales on census day (27 March 2011) at 3.1 million – an increase of 153,000 (5 per cent) in the past 10 years, from 2.9 million in 2001.

These findings detail the lives of residents in the 22 Welsh local authorities. Topics covered include their ethnicity, religion, country of birth, health, accommodation, tenure, and use of cars and vans. Additionally, for Wales only, statistics on users of the Welsh language are published. Full details are given in the Statistical Bulletin and accompanying tables.

Some headline facts of life in Wales are:

Welsh language skills

  • While 80 per cent of people aged 45 to 49 in Wales said they had ‘No skills in Welsh’, this percentage changed for those aged 10 to 14 years old, 47 per cent of whom declared they had ‘No skills in Welsh’

  • The local authority with the greatest proportion of residents aged three and over declaring ‘No skills in Welsh’ was Blaenau Gwent (59,600 people, 88 per cent). Here, of all residents aged 25 and over, more than 95 per cent declared ‘No skills in Welsh’, whereas 52 per cent of those aged 10 to 14 years old in this district said they had no such skills

  • Gwynedd had the highest percentage of residents aged three and over who said they can ‘Speak, read and write in Welsh’ (65,900 people, 56 per cent). In this district 88 per cent of those aged 10 to 14 said they could ‘Speak, read and write in Welsh’

National identity

  • Nearly two-thirds (66 per cent, 2 million) of residents gave their national identity as Welsh

  • Rhondda Cynon Taf residents had the highest proportion of those seeing themselves as having a ‘Welsh only identity’ (171,800 people, 73 per cent), closely followed by Merthyr Tydfil with the second highest proportion (43,100 people, 73 per cent)

  • Merthyr Tydfil had the smallest proportion of ‘English’ (2,100 people, 4 per cent) or ‘English and British’ identities (200 people, less than 1 per cent)


  • Cardiff had the lowest proportion of the ‘White: English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British’ ethnic group in Wales at 80 per cent. Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly had the highest proportions at 97 per cent. The average for Wales was 93 per cent, and for England and Wales as a whole it was 80 per cent


  • The proportion of people in Wales who said they were ‘Christians’ had decreased 14 percentage points since 2001 to 1.76 million (58 per cent)

  • Looking at the regions of England along with Wales, the biggest decline in those giving their religion as ‘Christian’ was in Wales, a decrease of 16 per cent (0.3 million) since 2001

  • Almost one third (32 per cent) of the population in Wales stated they have ‘No religion’ – the highest proportion of all regions in England and Wales


  • Wales’s population increase is the largest seen in any census period since 1951

  • Around 90 per cent of this growth was due to migration, including people moving to Wales from elsewhere in the UK, as well as international migration

  • 93,600 non-UK-born usual residents migrated to Wales between 2001 and 2011

Guy Goodwin, ONS’s Director of Census, said:

“These statistics paint a picture of society and help us all plan for the future using accurate information at a local level.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of census statistics. Further rich layers of vital information will be revealed as we publish more detailed data for very local levels over the coming months.”

More details on living and working in Wales are available, including:

Cars and vans

  • The number of cars and vans available to households in Wales increased 20 per cent between 2001 and 2011, from 1.3 to 1.6 million. This increase is greater than in England (almost 14 per cent)

  • Wales had a slightly higher proportion of households with four or more cars than did England (both at around 2 per cent)

  • Wales had more households with access to two cars or vans than households with no access

  • The percentage of households in Wales with access to two, three, or four or more cars or vans has increased almost 6 percentage points – a greater change than in England  


  • The number of married couple households decreased more in Wales (by 5 percentage points) than in England, particularly in Blaenau Gwent (down by 7 percentage points) and Newport (down by 7 percentage points)

Home ownership

  • In  2011 Wales had the highest number of properties owned outright (35 per cent) compared with the regions in England, fractionally beating the South West Region (also at 35 per cent)

Health and provision of unpaid care

  • Compared with England, Wales had a lower percentage of residents describing themselves as in good or very good health: 78 per cent (compared with England’s 81 per cent)

  • Of the local authorities with the highest proportion of residents reporting ‘Very bad health’, 8 of the top 10 are in Wales 

  • Wales continued to have a higher percentage of the population than England (18 per cent) with an activity-limiting long-term illness: 23 per cent

  • Wales had a higher proportion of unpaid carers than England giving 20 to 49 and 50 or more hours of care: 2 and 3 per cent respectively

The accompanying Statistical Bulletin for Release 2.1 discusses these topics in more detail.

For further information:

Media Line:  01329 447654  


Visit: for more detailed analysis and information


Data visualisation: 

Use this link to access interactive maps on topics such as Religion, Car ownership, Ethnicity, Dwelling type, Tenure, Year of arrival and Health. They can be embedded/used in websites using the code supplied in the maps. The maps can 'deeplink' into specific views of the data (ie a specific area and/or variable selection). Some maps are split screen, allowing graphical comparisons of 2001 with 2011 changes.

Background notes

  1. The census provides the most accurate estimate possible for the population of England and Wales and has been carried out every 10 years since 1801, apart from 1941, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The information provided to ONS is used solely for the census, is anonymised and protected for 100 years. Census day was on 27 March 2011. All census population numbers refer to that day.
  2. Government uses the census statistics to allocate funding for services such as education, transport and health. Policy makers in central and local government use the census to identify the needs of different communities and they are also used by commercial enterprises. It also provides the benchmark for future population estimates and for sample surveys.
  3. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
  4. The regions referred to conform to standard statistical regions. It is not possible to compare data for some geographies between 2011 and 2001 because of local authority reorganisation in this period.
  5. The next release of census data is scheduled for 30 January 2013.This will give Key and Quick Statistics tables at output area, wards parish and parliamentary constituency geographies. These will be accompanied by a statistical bulletin and census analysis. By the end of February 2013 Key and Quick Statistics for the remaining geographies such as National Parks will be published. Further information about each of the existing and planned census outputs is available via an online prospectus as:
  6. Census results are set out in tables under Key statistics and Quick statistics. Key statistics provide summary figures that cover the full range of results from the census. They are presented in a tabular format, with figures as both numbers and percentages, to allow comparison across different areas. Quick statistics contain data which refer to one variable and its response categories from a census question. Because of this, cross-tabulation is not possible at this stage.
  7. The main population base for outputs from the 2011 Census is the usual resident population as at census day 27 March 2011. A ‘usual resident’ of the UK is anyone who, on census day, was in the UK and had stayed or intended to stay in the UK for a period of 12 months or more, or had a permanent UK address and was outside the UK and intended to be outside the UK for less than 12 months.
  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.