The latest estimate for the popualation of Wales (Cymru) comes from the Office of National Statistics, who reported in 2011 that the population had passed three million for the first time. To be precise, they estimated that, in mid-2011, 3,006,400 people lived in Wales.
The 2001 census reported that Wales’ population was 2,903,085, so this represents an increase of just over 100,000 people in a decade. The results of the 2011 census will be released in mid 2012, at which point we will have the most up to date population figures.
Largest cities in Wales
The three largest cities in Wales are Cardiff (pop: 292,150 in 2001), Swansea (pop: 169,880) and Newport (116,143), all located on the Southern Coast. Cardiff was the 14th largest city in the United Kingdom at the time of the 2001 census.
Rhondda and Barry are the only other towns in Wales that are home to more than 50,000 people. Wrexham is the largest town in Northern Wales, with 42,576 residents in the town proper, although the wider Wrexham Urban Area has 63,084 residents.
Ethnicity and Religion in Wales
There has been some controversy in Wales in recent years because, although people in Scotland and Northern Ireland are able to identify themselves in the census as Scottish or Irish by ticking a box, no equivalent option is available in Wales. Nonetheless, 14% of people who completed the census in Wales felt strongly enough to write in that they were of Welsh ethnicity.
Some related data is available, as well. The 2001 census revealed that 75% of people in Wales at the time were born in Wales. 20% were born in England, and less than one per cent in either Scotland, Northern Ireland or Ireland. In addition, a labour force survey completed the same year revealed that 72% of adults in Wales regarded themselves as wholly Welsh, and an additional 7% regarded themselves as partly Welsh.
More generally, the 2001 census revealed that only 2.1% of the Wales population was non-white (0.88% Asian, 0.40% Chinese and 0.25% Black) and 0.61% of mixed race. Everyone else reported that they were White (95.99% White British, 1.28% White Other and 0.61% White Irish).
When it came to religion, 71.90% of people in Wales reported themselves to be Christian, 18.53% reported that they had no religion, 8.07% declined to answer the question, and 0.75% reported themselves to be Muslim. No other religion was claimed by more than 0.2% of the population.
There are two official languages in Wales – English and Welsh.
The 2001 census recorded that 20.8% of people in Wales can speak Welsh to some degree. Other surveys put the number of Welsh speakers in Wales at a slightly higher level. Promotion of the language by the Welsh Assembly Government, combined with legal protection, have led to an increase in the number of Welsh speakers over the past few decades and it is likely that the 2011 census will report a further increase in usage.
Around 60% of those who do speak Welsh are said to be fluent and/or to use the language on a daily basis. Very few people, however, speak only Welsh and English remains the most widely spoken language, spoken fluently by almost everyone in Wales.
If you take a look at the map above, you can see details of the number of Welsh speakers in each region of Wales.
There is no hard data on the number of people born in Wales who live in the rest of the UK, or even further afield.
However, many people emigrated from Wales over time, notably to former British colonies. There are an estimated 1.8 million people of Welsh descent in the United States, for example, and more than 400,000 people of Welsh descent in Canada.
Intriguingly, there are also around 50,000 people of Welsh descent in Argentina, where a Welsh colony was founded in Patagonia in the 1860s. Welsh influence in the region is high, and there are an estimated 1,500-5,000 Welsh speakers in the country.