Welsh speakers and out-migration from Wales

Hywel Jones, Welsh Language Board

[Project number 20080]

The 2001 Census (table S015) revealed that 609,000 people living in England were born in Wales but it is not known how many of them can speak Welsh. We would like to estimate the figure. This is of interest to the Board and other bodies in Wales. It is the reason that calls are often made, by individuals and pressure groups, for including a new question in the Census in England about ability to speak Welsh.

Out-migration of Welsh speakers, particularly from heartland Welsh speaking areas, is a critical factor in the maintenance of a Welsh speaking population. The incidence of out-migration has not been quantified and yet potentially it has many policy implications. We wish to examine the topic to add to the evidence base.

Our previous study using LS data looked at the the maintenance of the ability to speak Welsh from 1971-1981, 1981-1991 and 1991-2001. This left the issue of consistency across more than 2 censuses unexamined and we wish now to look at this.

The LS can provide data about people who lived in England in 2001 but lived in Wales as far back as 1971. This data may provide a means of making a reasonable estimate of the percentage who could speak Welsh when last resident in Wales.

As the Census in England does not ask about ability in Welsh, the Census on its own can not provide direct evidence about the propensity of Welsh speakers to migrate from strongly Welsh speaking areas to areas where Welsh is less used, England in particular. The LS can. We wish to use the LS to look at the destination by 2001 of people who were resident in Wales in 1971, (split by Welsh/non-Welsh speaking, by age group, sex, area of residence within Wales, and perhaps other factors such as country of birth, social class, educational achievement), and repeat the investigation for residents of 1981 and 1991.

The LS can be used to match the sample resident in Wales in 2001 back through all censuses to 1971. Cross tabulation by age, sex and Welsh speaking/not Welsh speaking in 2001 and Welsh speaking/not Welsh speaking in the earlier censuses can then be achieved, building on the previous analysis of matching 1971-81, 1981-91, and 1991-2001 separately.

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