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Why are younger people leaving Wales? MPs launch inquiry to examine population change in Wales

27 July 2023

The Welsh Affairs Committee has today launched a new inquiry looking at population change in Wales.

Wales has a larger proportion of older people than elsewhere in the UK – it is higher than all English regions apart from the South West. The number of 15 to 64 year olds has also fallen by 2.5% between 2011 and 2021.

This is part of a larger picture that population growth in Wales appears to be slowing. Between 2001 and 2011, the population in Wales grew by 5.5%, but between 2011 and 2021, this reduced to 1.4%. Across Wales, some areas are seeing higher growth rates than elsewhere, with Newport, Cardiff and Bridgend all seeing significant rises in population. However, some local authorities are reporting lower populations in 2021 compared to 2011 such as Blaenau Gwent, and concerningly, many of these areas are Welsh speaking heartlands such as Ceredigion and Gwynedd.

Through this inquiry, the Committee seeks to understand the reasons for population change and its impacts. It will examine what mitigations could be put in place by the UK Government to meet the potential challenges of population change.

Chair's comment

Welsh Affairs Committee Chairman, Stephen Crabb, said: 

“The population of Wales is changing. Growth is slowing overall, while some areas such as Ceredigion are seeing an outright decline in residents. The population is getting older across the whole of Wales, and Cardiff, Newport and Bridgend are the only places that have experienced an increase in the number of working age people. Our Committee wants to shine a spotlight on these trends and ask what they mean for Wales.

“We are especially keen to understand why younger people appear to be leaving Wales – particularly in areas that are Welsh speaking.  We will specifically be looking at the impact these trends have on the Welsh economy and labour market, and the implications for public services.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions by Friday 22 September. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • What are the underlying drivers of changes in Wales’s population highlighted by the 2021 Census, in particular depopulation and ageing in some areas?
  • Are young people leaving Wales? Why?
  • What are the main impacts of the decreasing number of economically active people in Wales?
  • What will the impact of population trends be on the demand for and delivery of public services, including housing, education and healthcare?
  • What steps should the Government take to mitigate the challenges of population change in Wales? How can young people be incentivised to stay?
  • How can educated and skilled migrants be encouraged to fill labour shortages?
  • How important is migration, both from within the UK and outside the UK, to enable Wales to grow its population and minimise the reduction in the numbers of people of working age?
  • Does the Shortage Occupation List and the Skilled Migrants list currently meet Wales’s needs?
  • How can the UK Government’s immigration targets better reflect Wales’s social and economic needs?,

Further information

Image credit: UK Parliament / Gabriel Sainhas