The census in Wales has been subtly different from its English counterpart since 1891, when an additional question about Welsh language was introduced.
Welsh Ministers involved
In 2011, there was a step-change in its evolution. For the first time, Welsh Ministers played a more formal role in agreeing census content and conduct. In 2010, after years of preparation, Welsh Ministers made the Census Regulations for Wales: the final piece of legislation required to allow the 2011 Census to take place.
2011 Census online and offline publicity materials and help services were bilingual. Public-facing content on the census website was in English and Welsh – even a mystery narrator on an animated history timeline was a Welsh speaker.
Every census since 1891 has asked residents in Wales an extra question about the Welsh language, and included subtle differences, such as a tick-box for Welsh Baccalaureate diplomas in the qualifications question.
Innovations for 2011
New for 2011 was the national identity question, which included a tick-box for Welsh. For the first time, this allowed people to state their Welshness – regardless of their ethnic group – and provide important information to census users about Welsh speakers and other languages spoken in Wales.
Also, for the first time in UK census history, the Welsh language questionnaire was not a direct translation from English into Welsh. Using an approach similar to New Zealand’s in developing its English and Māori census questionnaires - and with input from statisticians, social researchers, translators, lawyers, and the public - a natural, Welsh language questionnaire was created purely for Welsh speakers.
Vital information for Wales
The unique information gathered for Wales should prove vital in deciding the number and location of Welsh medium and bilingual schools over the next ten years, and help public bodies meet their statutory duties under the Welsh Language Act 1993. Census statistics will also provide evidence to inform and support the Welsh Language Board’s activities and help assess the demand for and value of specific Welsh language education schemes.