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Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language

First published:
16 June 2023
Last updated:

In December 2022, the first release of data about the Welsh language from Census 2021 was published, which showed that the number of Welsh speakers had fallen to 538,300. This was in stark contrast to the estimates of the Annual Population Survey, which showed that the number of Welsh speakers had risen over the same period and continue to increase. More data from Census 2021 have now been published, including data on Welsh language ability by population characteristics, such as age, sex and ethnic group, as well as data about intergenerational Welsh language transmission within households. The range of data that is now available to us enriches our understanding of the Welsh language in our communities today.

In our language strategy, Cymraeg 2050, published in 2017, we note that the census is the authoritative source of information in terms of the Welsh language ability of the population in Wales. Cymraeg 2050 states that the increase towards our target of a million Welsh speakers will be monitored using the data from future censuses.

The large differences between the census and survey results make it challenging to use these statistics to inform Welsh language policy. I am therefore publishing this statement today to inform you of the work we are undertaking to improve the coherence of different sources relating to Welsh language statistics in Wales. Welsh Government statisticians have published a joint work plan with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to examine the differences between these data sources in greater detail.

A key part of this work is to link Census 2021 data to ONS survey data via the Integrated Data Service (IDS). This innovative data linking project, one of the first projects to use the IDS, will allow us to learn more about the groups of people who respond differently between the census and ONS surveys about their Welsh language ability.

This will be a basis for analysing the differences between other sources, such as the Pupil Level Annual School Census and the National Survey for Wales.

As well as understanding the differences in estimates between the main data sources in relation to the Welsh language, the ONS and the Welsh Government will also address why the results of those sources are different. This includes looking in detail at how surveys are designed and carried out.

The ONS will also consider how to further improve the range of statistics on the Welsh language by looking at how to collect information about people who are able to speak Welsh but live outside Wales.

The work will be overseen by a taskforce including Welsh Government’s Chief Statistician and analysts, and officials and analysts from the ONS.

Regular updates on the work will be published on the Digital and Data Blog and the Statistics and Research pages of the Welsh Government website.