Skip to main content

Data on people’s ability in Welsh and how often they speak the language for July 2021 to June 2022.

The census of population is the key source used to measure the number of Welsh speakers in Wales. However, as the Annual Population Survey (APS) provides quarterly results, it is a useful source to look at trends in Welsh language ability between censuses.

2022 reweighting

On 13 September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a reweighted APS dataset for March 2020 onwards. This was due to a planned reweight (using updated Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) data) as well as to correct an error affecting grossing factors for some age groups for the annual periods between April 2019 to March 2020 and July 2020 to June 2021. Due to this reweighting, the Welsh Government’s Annual Population Survey releases for the period April 2021 to March 2022 were cancelled, and data for this period are now included alongside July 2021 to June 2022 data within this release.

Main points

The chart shows the results from the Annual Population Survey from 2001 to the end of July 2022. In 2001 there were 834,500 Welsh speakers. The trend decreases until 2007 and then increases again to 899,500 by the end of June 2022. The results of the 2001 and 2011 Census have also been plotted on the same chart to show that the Census estimates for the number of Welsh speakers are significantly lower; over 200,000 lower.
  • For the year ending 30 June 2022, the Annual Population Survey reported that 29.7% of people aged three or older were able to speak Welsh. This figure equates to around 899,500 people.
  • This is 0.5 percentage points higher than the previous year (year ending 30 June 2021), equating to around 14,400(r) more people.
  • The chart shows how these figures have been gradually increasing each year since March 2010 (25.2%, 731,000), after they had been gradually declining from 2001 to 2007. The number of people reporting being able to speak Welsh decreased from December 2018 to March 2020, before generally increasing again since then. This increase should be treated with caution due to the change of survey mode since mid-March 2020 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See ‘Changes to the survey’ below.
  • The highest numbers of Welsh speakers are found in Cardiff (102,400), Carmarthenshire (92,000) and Gwynedd (91,700).
  • The lowest numbers of Welsh speakers are in Blaenau Gwent (11,000) and Merthyr Tydfil (12,800).
  • The highest percentages of Welsh speakers can be found in Gwynedd (76.3%) and the Isle of Anglesey (62.1%).
  • The lowest percentages of Welsh speakers are in Blaenau Gwent (16.6%), Torfaen (17.3%) and Swansea (17.6%).
  • 14.8% (449,900) of people aged three or older reported that they spoke Welsh daily, 5.6% (169,700) weekly and 7.6% (229,500) less often. Around 1.7% (50,300) reported that they never spoke Welsh despite being able to speak it, with the remaining 70.3% not able to speak Welsh.
  • 33.4% (1,013,000) reported that they could understand spoken Welsh, 26.0% (789,700) could read and 24.0% (726,200) could write Welsh.

(r) Revised on 10 November 2022.


The Annual Population Survey (APS) is a UK-wide survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The APS, which began in 2004, is compiled from interviews for the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Details about how the survey is developed and carried out can be found on the Office for National Statistics website.

The census results and APS results for 2001 and 2011 have been included on the chart above to show the differences between the two sources at the same time periods. There are a number of possible explanations for why census results would be lower than survey results. For example, the census is a statutory self-completion questionnaire while the APS is a voluntary survey, which uses face-to-face and telephone interviews. 

The APS results should not be compared with census results, nor used to measure progress towards the Welsh Government target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050. The Welsh language strategy, Cymraeg 2050, clearly states that this target was based on census data and that progress towards this target will be monitored using future census data. The Office for National Statistics has updated its release calendar (Office for National Statistics) with provisional publication dates for Census 2021 topic summaries. The provisional publication date for the Welsh language topic summary (Office for National Statistics) is Tuesday 6 December 2022.

A blog published by the Chief Statistician in 2019, discussed briefly how to interpret the Welsh language data from the APS. More information about the differences between the APS and the census can be found in a bulletin presenting more detailed results on the Welsh language from the APS from 2001 to 2018.

Changes to the survey

Following government advice regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Annual Population Survey as well as all other Office for National Statistics (ONS) face-to-face studies about people, families and households were suspended. Further details of these changes can be found in this statement on the ONS website.

From mid-March 2020, the APS survey has been carried out by telephone only. A change in how a survey is administered can affect survey results. This set of results cover the period from October 2020 to September 2021, therefore all the interviews were carried out by telephone.

By comparing those who completed the survey over the telephone with those who completed the survey face-to-face in the period before March 2020, respondents did appear to be more likely to state that they could speak Welsh when answering the survey over the telephone.

At present, it is not possible to say whether any recent changes in Welsh language ability is as a result of the change in the way the survey is conducted, or real changes in the population’s ability in Welsh. The results should therefore be interpreted with caution.


Datasets and interactive tools


Llio Owen

Rydym yn croesawu gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg / We welcome correspondence in Welsh.


Telephone: 0300 025 8099

Rydym yn croesawu galwadau yn Gymraeg / We welcome calls in Welsh.