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Foreword by the Chief Statistician
The annual Well-being of Wales report provides a valuable opportunity for a well-rounded look at our nation’s progress towards the seven well-being goals. This year’s report comes at a turbulent time. Whilst the peak of the coronavirus pandemic may have passed, its impact is still profoundly felt. In addition, the cost of living crisis and the invasion of Ukraine create uncertainty and anxiety both at home and internationally. At the time of writing, these events are still evolving and it will take many years before their full impact is known (although where possible we have commented on them in this report).
Over two years on from the start of the pandemic, we can now monitor a wider range of its impacts and also see whether the change it created is persisting. For example, we saw some positive shifts in topics such as community cohesion and local decision-making early in the pandemic. Although the latest data shows some of these measures are starting to fall back, they are still above pre-pandemic levels. Could this be an example of sustained change or, in time, will they return to their previous levels?
It is clear there have been impacts on many elements of our national well-being. The Healthier Wales chapter of this report highlights slow progress towards the well-being goal, with worsening mental wellbeing in both adults and older children particularly noteworthy this year. One of the themes that emerged from last year’s report was the number of examples of widening inequalities. This continues to be a feature this year, with few signs of the gaps reversing. The cost of living crisis has compounded the challenges posed by the very low growth in living standards, driven by very weak growth in productivity, as experienced across the UK since around the time of the financial crisis. The is expected to exacerbate inequalities further, with people on low incomes likely to be particularly affected.
But there are also signs of positive change. In the area of fair work, the full-time gender pay gap is at its lowest level, there are recent increases in people on permanent contracts who are paid the real living wage, and more people now have their pay set through collective bargaining. In the most recent year, the number of low birth weight babies fell for the first time since 2014. And greenhouse gas emissions have continued to improve (helped by the impact of the pandemic) and the amount of waste that isn’t recycled continues to fall.
New national indicators and milestones
At the end of 2021, an updated set of national indicators was laid before the Senedd, expanding the set from 46 indicators to 50. New topics such as justice, housing affordability, transport and digital inclusion were added for the first time, alongside some changes to existing national indicators. This year’s Wellbeing of Wales report presents data on some of these new and updated indicators for the first time. I look forward to reporting on more of these indicators as new data sources become available over the coming years.
This year’s report is also the first to cover progress towards the national milestones. The milestones are generational targets which describe the pace and scale of change needed in key areas under the seven well-being goals. The first nine national milestones were set in late 2021, with eight more in development. Analysis from this year’s report shows mixed progress across the first nine milestones, with positive long-term progress on the gender pay gap, employment rate, qualifications and greenhouse gas emissions, but either stagnation, deterioration or a less clear trend for other milestones.
How do you use this report?
This year the Wellbeing of Wales report has been given National Statistics status. This means it has been independently assessed as meeting the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value. We want to make sure we keep living up to these standards and, if you’re reading this report, you can help us do this. We want to hear about how you use the report and the national indicators, what you like about it and what you’d like to see improved. If you’d like to contribute, we plan to use the Shaping Wales’ Future blog to keep you updated and seek your views .