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Main points

As across the UK as a whole, the growth in the economy and in real incomes has been sluggish since the recession of 2008, reflecting weak productivity growth. Over the longer run, since 1999, Wales has broadly kept pace with the UK as a whole, but its performance continues to be weak compared with many other parts of the UK. 

The historic gaps in employment and activity rates between Wales and other parts of the UK have narrowed, with Wales out-performing some English regions. This represents a marked change from the period prior to devolution in the 1980s and 1990s.

There has been little change in overall relative income poverty levels in Wales for over 15 years. Wales has more people in low paid work than some other parts of the UK, but there have been recent increases in the share of people on permanent contracts who are paid the real Living Wage.

The qualification profile of the Welsh working age population has been improving over time. In 2021, 62.5% of working age adults in Wales were qualified to the level 3 threshold. This is an increase from just over a half in 2011.

The recycling rate continued to increase with nearly two-thirds of municipal waste reused, recycled or composted in 2020-21. The amount of municipal waste generated was the lowest on record.

The latest comprehensive assessment of Welsh natural resources (SoNaRR) shows that overall, biological diversity is declining. Most habitat types have seen a reduction in diversity over the last 100 years, with the rate of decline increasing from the 1970s onwards.

Life expectancy fell in the most recent period available (2018 to 2020), which includes part of the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthy life expectancy continues to be worse for those living in more deprived areas but has remained relatively stable between 2011 to 2013 and 2018 to 2020.

The majority (93%) of adults reported following two or more of the five healthy lifestyle behaviours. The percentage of children with two or more healthy lifestyle behaviours remains at 88%, broadly unchanged since data collection started in 2013/14. 

Mental wellbeing for both adults and children is lower than prior to the pandemic, according to the most recent assessment.

Nearly half (49%) of single parents were in material deprivation in 2021-22 and 2% of households said they had received food from a food bank during 2021-22.

Girls continue to achieve better educational outcomes at GCSE. In summer 2021, girls were awarded more grades at A* to C than boys.

Latest estimates show that for the first time in Wales, the proportion of the population stating they had no religion was higher than the proportion identifying as Christian.

The (full-time) gender pay gap was 5.0% in 2021, unchanged on the previous year and the lowest rate ever recorded. The disability pay gap, which rose between 2014 and 2019 now appears to be reducing, though the employment situation during the COVID-19 pandemic may have had an impact on this trend.

There has been an increase in people feeling that they can influence decisions in their local area which continues to reverse the downward trend seen prior to the pandemic.

Community cohesion remains above pre-pandemic levels, although reported hate crimes continued to increase in the latest year.

The pandemic has continued to have a large negative impact on attendance at arts and cultural events and there has been mixed progress in sport participation.

Survey data showed an increase in the percentage of people who speak Welsh in the latest year. The National Survey for Wales shows that 11% of Welsh speakers are fluent.

More museums and archive services are meeting accredited standards. 63% have now reached this benchmark, up from 59% in 2017.

In 2020, it was estimated that emissions totalled 33 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, a fall of 40% since the base year (1990).

The National Survey for Wales reported 11% of adults have done three or more of the four following actions to help with global issues: donating or raising money, campaigning, volunteering, or changing what they buy.

General quality issues

Annual Population Survey (APS) data published in March 2022 has been used throughout this year’s Wellbeing of Wales report. ONS published updated APS data in mid-September. This included planned revisions to historical data, and corrections to an earlier error identified with the grossing factors for some age groups. The fully revised data set was available too late for inclusion in this report. However, the impact on overall totals is minimal, and none of the overall trends are affected. National indicator web pages will be updated with the latest data during Autumn 2022. 

In May 2020, due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic the National Survey for Wales changed mode from a face-to-face interview to one over the telephone. The wording of some questions was also changed to better suit the mode. For these reasons it is not always possible to make direct comparisons across years but, where relevant, results from previous years are included throughout this report to add context.