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A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
Author: Stephanie Howarth
A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language: A society that promotes and protects culture, heritage and the Welsh language, and which encourages people to participate in the arts, sports and recreation.
What have we learnt from the data in the last year?
- This year 72% of adults attended or took part in arts, culture or heritage activities at least three times a year. (r)
The percentage of adults regularly attending and participating in arts, culture and heritage is not significantly different this year from when it was previously measured in 2019-20 and 2017-18. (r)
- Looking at the arts in more detail, arts attendance appears to have been more negatively affected by the pandemic than arts participation. There is no new data on children’s attendance or participation in the arts this year.
- More adults are taking part in sport regularly this year. 39% of adults said they take part in sport three of more times a week. There was a fall in the percentage who said they did no sport or physical activity – down from 44% in 2021-22 to 40% this year.
- In contrast to the increase in sports participation for adults, fewer children are taking part in regular sport outside of school. 39% of pupils took part in organised sport three or more times a week in 2022, down by 9 percentage points from the last survey in 2018.
- According to Census 2021, 17.8% of people aged three years or older in Wales reported they could speak Welsh, down from 19.0% in Census 2011. This appeared to be driven by a fall in the number of children and young people who were reported as being able to speak Welsh. The National Survey for Wales shows that 11% of people reported they are fluent.
- The conditions of 77% of listed buildings were assessed as “stable or improving” this year, compared to 59% for scheduled monuments. This is broadly unchanged from the previous year.
- The percentage of museums meeting accredited standards has remained unchanged this year at 62%, while 93% of archive services met the accreditation standards.
What is the longer term progress towards the goal?
A small number of national indicators for this goal have shown a marked decline over the long term, most notably the number of Welsh speakers. The pandemic period may have contributed here, including on children’s sport participation. In contrast, there have been notable long term increases in a range of areas such as children’s participation and attendance in arts, regular participation in sport by adults, and museums and archives achieving accreditation. Wide disparities remain across many indicators for this goal.
- The national indicator on arts, culture and heritage has been collected three times, starting in 2017-18. The percentage of adults regularly attending and participating in arts, culture and heritage is not significantly different this year from when it was previously measured in 2019-20 and 2017-18(r). There continue to be wide differences depending on age, health, deprivation and qualifications, but not for sex or ethnic groups.
- Children and young people’s attendance and participation in the arts has increased substantially over the last decade.
- More museums and archive services are meeting accredited standards. Between 2017 and 2023, there have been larger increases in the percentage of archive services meeting accredited standards (from 57% to 93%) than museums (from 59% to 62%).
- Since 2016-17, there has been a relatively large increase in regular participation in sport by adults, despite a plateau between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Sports participation amongst school pupils had increased but has now fallen back to similar levels seen in 2013.
- The number and percentage of people able to speak Welsh fell according to Census 2021, with the percentage now the lowest ever recorded in a census. There is a national milestone for one million Welsh speakers by 2050. According to the census, 538,000 people were able to speak Welsh in 2021, down from close to one million in 1911.
- Survey data suggests an increase in non-fluent Welsh speakers over the long term. The percentage of Welsh speakers that use the language every day has been fairly stable.
- Conditions of listed buildings in Wales have improved slightly since 2015, while the conditions of scheduled monuments have recently stabilised.
Arts, culture and heritage
In 2022-23, 72% of adults attended or took part in arts, culture or heritage activities at least three times a year. This compares to 71% in 2019-20 and 75% in 2017-18. Whilst there was a fall in attendance and participation from 2017-18 to 2019-20, there are no statistically significant changes in this indicator between 2022-23 and previous times it was measured. (r)
There continue to be large differences in attendance and participation between groups. Younger adults, people with higher qualifications, people with higher life satisfaction or people living in the least deprived areas of Wales were more likely to attend or participate in these activities. However, there is no difference between males and females, and differences in estimates for ethnic groups were not statistically significant.
Figure 6.1: Adults attending or participating in arts, culture and heritage three or more times a year, 2017-18 to 2022-23 (r)
Description of Figure 6.1: A bar chart showing three years of data for the national indicator on regularly attending or participating in arts, culture and heritage. There are no significant differences between 2022-23 and the previous years this indicator was measured. (r)
Source: National Survey for Wales
Arts attendance and participation in adults
Looking at the arts in more detail, the period of the pandemic appears to have negatively affected arts attendance. In 2022-23, 64% of people attended an arts event over the last year, down from 70% prior to the pandemic. Seeing a film continues to be the art form with the highest level of attendance, with 47% of adults doing this over the last 12 months.
Arts participation continues to be much lower than arts attendance, with 18% of adults participating in the arts in 2022-23. Unlike arts attendance, the pandemic does not appear to have considerably affected arts participation, with a broadly similar share of people taking part in the arts in the most recent year compared to 2019-20. Music, and visual arts and crafts had the highest levels of participation this year, at 7% each.
Figure 6.2: Adults attending an arts event in the last 12 months, by art form, 2022-23
Description of Figure 6.2: A bar chart which shows the types of arts events attended by adults in 2022-23, with film the highest category.
Source: National Survey for Wales
In 2021-22, the National Survey for Wales asked about barriers to going to or taking part in the arts. A lack of interest and difficulty finding time were the most common barriers mentioned, with 28% and 22% of people citing these reasons. However, for older adults, health reasons were reported as their biggest barrier after a lack of interest.
Children and the arts
Over the long term, there has been an increase in children attending arts events. Children’s participation in the arts, however, has been more stable in recent years.
Surveys collected by the Arts Council of Wales were disrupted during the pandemic, so the most recent data available is from 2019. This shows that the share of children and young people attending arts events increased over the last decade, although there was a slight decrease in the most recent year that data is available. It rose from 76.3% in 2010 to 86.7% in 2019.
Arts participation in children has been broadly unchanged over recent years. Around 86% to 87% of children and young people took part in the arts in each of the last four years up to 2019.
Museums and archives
The latest data shows that 99 museums met the accreditation standard in 2023. This is unchanged from last year but an increase of five since 2019. This means that 62% of museums are now accredited, compared to 59% in 2017 to 2019. The accreditation scheme was paused in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic so figures are not available for this period.
Visits to museums have fallen compared to pre-pandemic levels. Data from the National Survey for Wales shows that 31% of people visited a museum in the last year, considerably lower than the 43% reported in 2019-20.
14 archive services met the accreditation standard in 2023, equivalent to 93% of archive services. The share of archive services that are accredited has increased from 57% in 2017, but has been more stable over recent years.
According to the National Survey for Wales, the proportion of people using an archive or records office has increased from 5% in 2019-20 to 8% in 2022-23.
More adults are taking part in sport regularly. The latest results from the National Survey for Wales show that 39% of adults took part in sport three or more times a week in 2022-23, the highest rate recorded by the survey. This is an increase of around 10 percentage points since 2016-17 when the information was first collected.
Regular sports participation decreases with age. 57% of 16 to 24 year olds are estimated to take part in regular sport, declining to 13% of 75+ year olds.
There are higher levels of regular sport participation among:
- younger age groups
- Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people
- people who do not have a long-term illness or condition
- people who speak Welsh
- people who are not in material deprivation.
The percentage of people who take part in no sport or physical activity fell this year from 44% in 2021-22 to 40% in 2022-23. This year’s figure is more in line with previous years. 2021-22 aside, the rate of people who take part in no sport has been broadly unchanged since the data was first collected in 2016-17.
Overall, 27% of adults would like to do more sport or physical activity. This has fallen substantially from previous surveys where almost 60% said they would like to do more.
Figure 6.3: Percentage of adults participating in sport three or more times a week, 2016-17 to 2022-23
Description of Figure 6.3: Line chart showing the percentage of adults taking part in sport three or more times a week, which has increased over the long term.
Source: National Survey for Wales
Children’s participation in sport
There was a large decrease in children’s participation in sport in 2022.
39% of pupils took part in organised sport outside of the curriculum three or more times a week. This was a 9 percentage point decrease from 2018 when the School Sport Survey was last carried out and is now the lowest figure ever recorded by the survey (just surpassing the 40% reported in 2013). There was also a large increase in the percentage who reported no frequent participation in sport outside of school. This stood at 36% in 2022, up from 28% in the previous survey. Despite decreases in participation, the vast majority of pupils (93%) wanted to do more sport.
There were decreases in frequent sport participation for both boys and girls, however boys continue to be more likely to take part in sport. In 2022, 43% of boys took part in organised sport three or more times a week outside of school, compared to 36% of girls. Primary school aged children were slightly less likely to take part in sport regularly than secondary school aged children.
When looking at broad ethnic groups, pupils from Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups had the highest rates of sports participation, with 43% taking part in sport three or more times a week. Pupils who did not give their ethnic group had the lowest levels of regular sport participation, followed by Asian, Asian Welsh and Asian British pupils, at 30%. Information on more detailed ethnic groups is included in the sub-report Ethnicity and Wellbeing in Wales.
Figure 6.4: Percentage of children participating in sport three or more times a week, 2013 to 2022
Description of Figure 6.4: A line chart showing the percentage of children regularly participating in sport. Participation has fallen recently back to a similar level seen in 2013.
Source: School Sport Survey
We consider the census to be the main source of information on the number of people who can speak Welsh in Wales. According to Census 2021, 17.8% of people aged three years or older in Wales can speak Welsh. This is down from 19.0% in 2011 and is the lowest percentage ever recorded on a census.
The national milestone on Welsh language is for one million Welsh speakers by 2050. Over the long term, the number of Welsh speakers has been falling from almost one million people in 1911 to 538,000 now. Although the most recent figures showed a fall in the number of Welsh speakers, the number remains above the lowest point in 1981, when under 504,000 people spoke Welsh.
The decrease in both the number and percentage of people aged three years or older able to speak Welsh was mainly driven by a fall among children and young people who were reported as being able to speak Welsh. Census 2021 was held during the COVID-19 pandemic on 21 March 2021. This followed periods of lockdown, remote learning for children and many people were working from home. It is not known if the pandemic impacted people’s reported Welsh language ability (or perception of the Welsh language ability of others).
Figure 6.5: People aged three years and older able to speak Welsh, 1911 to 2021
Description of Figure 6.5: A line chart showing the number of people able to speak Welsh since 1911. Numbers fell substantially in the first half of the 20th century, with smaller changes since.
[Note 1] There was no census in 1941.
Source: Census of Population
Census 2021 data shows almost one in ten households comprised people who were all able to speak Welsh.
The census shows that the age profile of Welsh speakers is younger than that of the general population. Of those who reported being able to speak Welsh in 2021, more than half were younger than 33 years old, and three-quarters were younger than 57 years old.
A higher percentage of females are able to speak Welsh than males, with the gap being widest for 16- to 18-year-olds.
Between 2011 and 2021, the percentage of people able to speak Welsh fell in both the White and the Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups. In contrast, there were increases in the percentage of people able to speak Welsh in the Asian, Asian Welsh or Asian British ethnic group; in the Black, Black Welsh, Black British, Caribbean or African ethnic group; and in the “Other” ethnic group.
Welsh language use
The latest Welsh language use survey shows there has been little change in how often people speak Welsh.
In 2019-20, 10% of people aged three or older spoke Welsh daily and could speak more than just a few words of Welsh. This is the same percentage as in the previous Welsh Language Use Survey in 2013-15. More recent data from the National Survey for Wales for people aged 16 or older also suggests there has been little overall change in the rate of people using Welsh daily. Fluent Welsh speakers speak the language more often than those who are not fluent.
Recent analysis of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 has investigated social use of Welsh.
Almost 70% of Welsh-speaking children and young people say that more of their friends can speak Welsh than can’t. Children and young people who are able to speak Welsh are more likely to do so with their friends in school than they are to speak Welsh with friends outside school.
For adults, 24% of Welsh speakers reported that all or most of their extended family could speak Welsh and 18% always or almost always spoke Welsh with their extended family. The figures were lower for friends and people in their local community. When looking at digital use of Welsh, Welsh-speaking adults were more likely to use Welsh in texts and emails than on social media.
Fluency in Welsh
Surveys provide information on Welsh language fluency which is not available from the census. Survey data are not comparable with the census as people are usually more likely to report they are able to speak Welsh in surveys. In contrast to the results from Census 2021, surveys have shown increases in the number of Welsh speakers. These differences are being investigated.
According to the National Survey for Wales, the share of Welsh speakers aged 16 years or older who are fluent has remained relatively unchanged over the last 10 years. However, over the long term, there have been increases in Welsh speakers who are not fluent.
The percentage of people who are fluent in Welsh has remained at around 10% or 11% since 2012-13, according to the National Survey for Wales.
23% of people reported they could speak some Welsh, but not fluently in the 2022-23 National Survey. This has increased by around 10 percentage points over the previous decade.
Historic buildings and monuments
Each year Cadw assesses the conditions of a sample of listed buildings and scheduled monuments in Wales. Conditions of listed buildings in Wales have improved slightly since 2015, while the conditions of scheduled monuments have recently stabilised.
Of the 30,000 listed buildings, 77% are in a stable or improving condition in 2023, up slightly from 74% in 2015. 9% of listed buildings are considered to be at risk. In general, conditions of listed buildings have remained broadly similar over the past five years, however data collection in 2022-23 was impacted by restrictions imposed by avian flu which limited inspections to urban areas.
The state of conservation of a sample of scheduled monuments are assessed each year. In 2022-23 condition surveys were carried out for 316 scheduled monuments, of which 52% of the sample were found to be stable or improved.
Of the 4,200 scheduled monuments in Wales, overall 59% are assessed to be in a stable or improving condition. This has been unchanged for three years in a row, but over the longer term the figure has been gradually falling since 2016-17, when 66% were in a stable or improving condition. 42% of scheduled monuments are demonstrating deterioration, of which 14% are considered to be at risk. The main impacts are damage and decay due to effects of weathering, vegetation encroachment and stock erosion.
63% of people said they had visited a heritage site in the past year, according to the National Survey for Wales.
Figure 6.6: Percentage of scheduled monuments that are in a stable or improving condition, 2011-12 to 2022-23
Description of Figure 6.6: A line chart showing the share of monuments that are in a stable or improving condition. The percentage has only changed slightly over the last ten years.
Previous versions of the Wellbeing of Wales report include further analysis of:
- taking part in volunteering or in arts or sports activities
- barriers to participation in arts and differences between socio-economic and population groups in arts and sports participation
- trends in the types of activities participated
- sport participation during the pandemic
- use of Welsh language by children and young people
- links between Welsh language and arts and culture events
The Arts Council of Wales and Sport Wales produce regular in-depth reports on arts and sports. This includes the Children’s Omnibus Survey 2019 and the School Sport Survey.
A range of analysis on the Welsh Language is also available from Census 2021, and in Welsh Language Use Survey reports for 2019-20. The following publications analysed survey data on the Welsh language in more detail or provide more information on the difference between census and survey estimates:
Arts attendance and participation
- Welsh language in Wales
- Welsh language by population characteristics
- Welsh language composition of households
Historic buildings and monuments
Museums and archives
CyMAL: Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales