The Welsh language census results for Ceredigion

The census figures for 2011, recently announced by the Office for National Statistics showed the percentage of Welsh speakers in Ceredigion down 4.68 per cent - 2,954 in hard numbers - compared to the last census in 2001.

A percentage drop of some kind was generally expected, although not necessarily this much, because it’s well-known that there is significant net migration into the county. The figure has gone from 51% down to  47.35%. However the big shock is that 2,954 fewer people in the county recorded themselves as speaking Welsh compared to 2001. People have been asking how this can be, given the increase in Welsh language education, and it’s worth starting the process of unpicking what has gone on. The first place to start is to look at the figures for Welsh speakers in the different age groups in Ceredigion compared to the 2001 census. The figures below are provided by the superb Syniadau blog:

The age group is followed by the number of Ceredigion Welsh speakers up or down and then the percentage up or down.

Age 3-4:  Up 15 / Up 2.35% 
Age 5-9:  Down 599 / Up 2.02%    
Age 10-14: Down 387 / Up 1.6%   
Age 15-19:  Down 219 / Down 11.65%   
Age 20–24:  Up 433 / Up 1.01%  
Age 25-39:  Down 1039 / Down 2.19%  
Age 40-49:  Down 433 / Down 3%
Age 50-59:  Down 664 / Down 2.54%
Age 60-64:  Up 144 / Down 8.27%
Age 65-74:  Down 40 / Down 8.58% 
Age 75+:  Down 165 / Down 6.27%

Remember, these figures are but one snapshot in time last year compared to another snapshot in time ten years ago.

The first thing to state is the positive point that the percentages of Welsh speakers for all ages up to 14 in the county are up, undoubtedly due to the steadily improving Welsh-language provision in the County’s schools. There also seem to be more Welsh-speaking students at Ceredigion's two universities. It’s just that, despite the good work being done, there are simply far fewer children in the county now, and the good effect of these is being outweighed by other factors. There are huge age-related demographic changes at work here that health professionals have been warning about for years.

The key factor in the lower numbers isn’t older Welsh-speakers dying, as might be expected. By far the biggest drop is amongst the 25-39 age group. This is echoed by the total population changes shown below compared to 2001 where, again, the biggest change is in the 25-39 age group (although I recognise the age groupings given aren’t equal).

Age 3-4      Down 32
Age 5-9      Down 838
Age 10-14  Down 548
Age 15-19  Up 970
Age 20-24  Up 1154
Age 25-39  Down 1603
Age 40-49  Down 338
Age 50-59  Down 909
Age 60-64  Up 1270
Age 65-74  Up 1409
Age 75+     Up 518

So the key overall population factors for Ceredigion are that children are down, students are up, those in both early and late middle age are down and all ages over 60 are up. The net total shows there are now 73,847 people over the age of three in Ceredigion compared to 72,884 ten years ago.

Although the number of people over 60 moving to the County seems, according to the figures, to be cutting the percentage of Welsh speakers, I’m not convinced this makes the crucial difference to the vitality of the language. The key factor for Ceredigion is the devastating loss of 1603 people - 1039 Welsh speakers - between the ages of 25-39. As a comparison, it’s worth recording that, in Cardiff, there was an increase of 9,800 in this age group compared to 2001 and this included 1,162 more Welsh speakers. The losses in Ceredigion continue up to age 59. Losing so many economically active people represents a crisis for the local economy as well as for the Welsh language.

More census details will be released next year, including the figures for those living in the rest of the UK recording their first language as Welsh. However there was no provision in the census to record those Welsh speakers outside Wales not stipulating Welsh as their first language, so we’ll never know the total number. This is a regular and serious omission in all censuses and implies that Welsh is not taken seriously as a ‘British’ language. According to Syniadau, anything between 52,000 and 89,000 Welsh speakers are now estimated to move out of Wales over a ten-year period.

Talking with friends in the pub last night, we all knew of people once very active in the Welsh-speaking community who had moved to England. All of these were highly intelligent people who had moved with the greatest reluctance but had really been left with no other career option. Some will be back. I suspect the majority will not, unless we can start to turn the economy around.

Last week Ceredigion Council heard that their application to turn Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi into a Welsh-medium primary school had been successful. Focussing in this way on the young people that we have, coupled with providing the good jobs, housing and prospects that bright, career-minded local people need, must be the future of the Welsh language in Ceredigion. How we can do this in the current climate is the big question.


  1. I think that you could see this coming, I feel like there has been a failure on so many levels, and particularly in my experience of Ceredigion. I'm still surprised by the lack of Welsh language support for people in their own communities. Even on the outskirts of Aber can you do Welsh in your own community, the Waun, or Llanbadarn or even Penparcau (with a lot of Welsh speakers according to the stats)? The Welsh language centres seem to herd people to the nearest town instead of creating bridges within the community, lazy really. People should be able to grow and use their language within the place that they live.

    I was also horrified to read that between April 2010 and April 2012 not one planning applications had been assessed for their impact on the Welsh language despite Government guidelines. What an earth is going on there and who is responsible? Isn't there supposed to be some huge development on the outskirts of Aber near Pen Dinas, wouldn't this decimate the language in that area. It feels like WAG should intervene and carry out some kind of investigation in order that appropriate action can be taken.

  2. As a Welsh learner who lives in the Swansea area but works for the LA in Ceredigion, I wonder if more cannot be done to support the language through trade. I use local shops in Aberaeron but I can see that many of the staff are incomers who make no effort to learn and speak the language. I'd quite happily take my business elsewhere as I'd rather support businesses that support the language.

    I can go into a newsagents in Aberaeron where the majority of the staff don't speak a word of Welsh, yet I hear plenty of Cymry Cymraeg in there. Why are they supporting businesses that do not support the language of the community? There should be a concerted campaign to support businesses that are willing to support the language - and boycott those that don't. Money talks at the end of the day.

  3. Hadn't visited Ceredigion for a long, long time until recently. Went into a newsagents outside Newquay and asked in Welsh if they had Wales on Sunday. The looks I received from the staff and other customers were, well, unpleasant to say the least. They actually looked offended and angry. What they hell has happened to the county?

    1. When did you leave Ceredigion and when was the Newquay affair?

  4. Ro'n i'n gwybod am y penderfyniad i droi Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi i fod yn ysgol cyfrwng Cymraeg, ond heb weld unrhywbeth am Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi. Oes 'na linc i'r penderfyniad ar wefan y Cyngor Sir? Newyddion da, gyda llaw.

  5. Alun, I think you've made a typo there - it was the decision of the Welsh Government Minister to allow Cardigan Primary School to change its status that was noted under personal matters at Council last week. Nothing to do with the Secondary School.

  6. Diolch Cneifiwr a Mark. Dwi wedi newid y geiriad nawr. Dyma linc i'r penderfyniad y Cabinet: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/utilities/action/act_rkyvdownload.cfm

  7. Good analysis and I agree with the conclusion (or at least I think it was the conclusion) that the safe guarding of the welsh language long term is more dependent on economic development and provision of suitable jobs, than any changes going forward to the education system.

    So if you care about the language, then hassle those members of the elected masses with a pulse for better Broadband and Rail Infrastruture [ Regretably, its how fast you can get to London that counts, not Cardiff ].

    Speaking from some experience, its quite hard to live in Ceredigion and have a career, outside the public sector or education, where you feel you are meeting your potential.

  8. Thanks Clive. I'm actually saying that both education and the local economy are the important factors. Your last sentence is very true and it's good that people like you are sticking around.

  9. I agree with Clive, I think that it's very hard to work somewhere such as the Aberystwyth area if you work in an area that requires that you have fast/super fast broadband (both upload and download). The access to such service is rapidly becoming the norm in lots of areas of our lives. Yet while Cornwall seems to be targeting rural areas and supporting rural business through the provision of super fast broadband, the rural counties in Wales seem to not to be having the same sort of impact. Unfortunately I feel that this has led to both a brain and culture-drain in our county. I find this a really odd situation in a town where information (sales, archives and services) seem to huge part of the economy through the National Library, University and Royal Commission to name but a few. How are students and people leaving the university supposed to start up business, in a world where business is about communication and the exchange of information (films, text, audio and so on) . My upload speed is 0.3mb in Aberystwyth, I can speak Welsh to a decent standard and like to be able to use it, but I can see why people are moving to other areas.

    Does anyone know what's going on in regard to the provision of superfast broadband? Is there any feedback from politicians in regard tot he moves they have made?

    Would it be possible for the town council and a consortium of other groups to lobby?

  10. There are many fairly easy positive steps that can be taken if the political will is there. I hope that Cyngor Ceredigion can show the way. I suggest the following for instance;
    1. Council to follow Gwynedd's example of making Welsh a basic skill for posts and developing Welsh as administrative language thus strengthning skills and confidence to use it.
    2. Put a good Wlpan type language training in place for non Welsh speakers internally at Council to show it is about skills and sustainability not a anti -English thing
    3. Get the University to follow shuch good practice.
    4. Make sure that third sector organisations working for or grant aided by the Council follow similar policy
    5. Support call for establishment of Welsh equivalent to the Irish 'Udaras na Gaeltachta' with focus on economic development along the West of Wales
    6. Stop the ridiculous over development of housing in the area
    7. Get a campaign going for far greater numbers to learn Welsh in the area

  11. thanks both Alun and Anonymous. Trains and Broadband are just the 2 that hit me personally the most and I suspect many others.

    BT are being very tight lipped as to their plans per region other than "by end of 2015" which itself has an adverse impact on investment and making medium/long term plans.

    Well worth having a read of the last 4 or 5 articles on http:http://br0kent3l3ph0n3.wordpress.com/. Though not Wales specific, it gives quite a lot of the political background as to what is going on.

  12. Jesus, fiddling while Rome burns...

  13. The Welsh language is dieing in Ceredigion due to the massive influx of people from England. The vast majority being nice guys like Clive.

  14. Re Broadband:
    Over the Summer, the Welsh Government announced that the contract to provide next-generation broadband connections throughout Wales by 2015 had been awarded to BT. This will see public funding being provided to support the introduction of fibre broadband in those areas which are unlikely to see infrastructure investment on a wholly commercial basis. (Thanks to Elin Jones for this info).

    Anonymous four comments back:
    I agree with all of points 1 - 7 except that, with point 6, there is a legitimate debate about there being insufficient housing for local people. You only have to attend a planning committee meeting to see linguistically-conscious rural councillors pushing planning applications through, some quite large, in order, as they see it, to cater for local Welsh speakers. I'm not always sure they're right but it's a sincerely held view.

    Last Anonymous:
    Of course new residents have a considerable effect but if it wasn't for the equally massive exodus of economically active local people the language would be close to holding its own in Ceredigion.

  15. The language would most certainly not be "holding its own" even if not a single Welsh speaker had voluntarily left. You, sir, are in denial if you believe that.

  16. What I mean is that there are 2850 fewer people between the ages of 25-59 in the county compared to the last census, including 2136 Welsh-speakers. No community can thrive with that kind of a loss. The total loss of Welsh-speakers across all age groups was only 818 more. That's what I meant by 'would be close to holding it's own', although maybe that was overstating the point.

    To turn your point around, if not a single non-Welsh speaker had moved into the area in the last ten years, we would still be in big trouble, linguistically and otherwise, due to this massive loss of people in the prime of their lives. In terms of denial, I believe that many people are in denial about the devastating loss of our most capable people.

  17. AnonymousMay 25, 2015

    You can slice and dice stats all you want, but more to the point is not looking at how figures have changed over 10 years , but why it is claimed that 82% of 3-15 year olds are welsh speakers, yet as soon as many leave education that figure drops by over 50% to 42% (Stats Wales, 2011).... I guess would be that you are failing to reach young people. The Urdd is great for youngsters up to the age of 11yrs after that, there is nothing for young people in most these towns (other than, Girl Guides and Army Cadets). Youth organisations need to give young people real incentives to be a part of welsh culture rather. Get out and ask the young people why most don't try speak Welsh to each other outside of the classroom, and there's the your answer to you problem.