Situated on the western shores of Britain, Wales is one of the four constituent nations of the UK and is bordered by the English counties of Chesire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. The country’s formal name is Principality of Wales in English, and Tywysogaeth Cymru in Welsh.

In the 2001 census, the population of Wales was recorded as 2,903,085 residents (although according to estimates based on a 2005 survey, the population has risen to 2,958,876). 96% of the Welsh population was recorded as white British and 2.1% of the population was recorded as being of non-white origins, mostly those of Asian descent. These minority groups were mainly concentrated in more urban areas as Cardiff (the capital city), Newport and Swansea. Additionally, one quarter of the Welsh population was born outside of Wales (mainly in England) and 3% of the population was born outside of the UK.

The official languages in Wales are English and Welsh; although the country is officially bilingual, Welsh (a Celtic language related closely to Cornish and Breton) is spoken by about 20.5% of the population and a larger proportion having some knowledge of the language. During the 20th century, several smaller communities in Wales have also established urban districts where Bengali and Cantonese are spoken, due to an influx of immigration. The Italian government also funds the teaching of Italian to Welsh citizens who have Italian origins.

Wales has three National Parks that includes Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (the only coastal National Park within the UK), five areas of outstanding natural beauty, seven wonders of Wales, 400 castles, and a beautiful landscape that holds several opportunities for walking, cycling, hiking, golfing, paragliding and more. Wales has amazing contrasts between the lush, open spaces of the countryside and the major metropolitan cities, such as Cardiff and Swansea. The country is also famous for sheep farming, which is prevalent in the mountains and moorlands. The history of its struggles against home-grown invaders from mainland Britain and external invaders has left Wales with more castles per square mile than any other country in Western Europe. Ironically, such centuries of oppression have left the country with national assets and establishments that continue to attract tourists to the ancient structures.

In 1996, Wales was divided into 22 council areas in order to better serve the local government. The unitary authorities are responsible for the provision of all local government services such as education, social work, environment and servicing roads. Certain areas in Wales also have community councils, which are responsible for specific areas within a council area.

The economy of Cardiff, the largest city in Wales, is growing through leaps and bounds, with many companies moving to the city or being used for the launching of new businesses. It is estimated that with the constructions of the St. David’s 2 project (expansion of the city centre to include a six-story library, multi-storey car park, and nine department stores), the Sports Village construction in Cardiff Bay (the base for a new casino, retail park and an ice rink for the Cardiff Devils ice hockey team), and the newly-built stadium for Cardiff City FC, the employment of the city will be increased to nearly 10,000 – a great boost to the regional economy.

The industries of Cardiff based at the city’s ports were once the busiest in the world, although in modern times, these particular industries have been rapidly declining. Coal mining, another of Wales’ once-thriving industries, has also nearly ceased. Recent years, however, have seen a swift growth in divisions such as science and technology businesses in Wales. Additionally, Cardiff is also a major centre for culture, sport, history and media in the UK. 

The principal finance and business services centre of Wales are now mostly based in Cardiff. As of December 2003, about 33,850 individuals were employed in the sector, surpassing the national proportion of the country (at 9.6%) and Great Britain (at 15.4%). National and international companies such as Legal & General, Barclay’s Bank Plc, Admiral Insurance, ING Direct and BT all have contact centres within the city. Major national employers such as NHS Wales and the National Assembly for Wales are also based in Cardiff.

The UK’s largest film, television and multimedia section outside of London are based in Cardiff, which is also home to BBC Wales, S4C and ITV Wales. Employment within the media industry has significantly increased within the past few years, providing about 2.1% of the city’s workforce – only slightly lower than the level across Great Britain in general, which comes in at 2.2%.

Transport in Cardiff is quite adequate, with bus, rail and air services all readily available within the city limits. Cardiff, as well as the south and west regions of Wales, are all served by the Cardiff International Airport, which is the only major airport in the entire country. The airport provides scheduled and charter airlines that provide both domestic and international links. The bus network is owned by Cardiff Bus company, which provides a variety of bus routes within the city, and the National Express also provides the city with direct routes within Cardiff and to many regions in the UK. There are about 20 rail stations within the city – including the main stations Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street – that are, when combined, used by over ten million passengers every year.

Given the nickname “the land of song,” Wales is also particularly well-known for its musical backgrounds that include harpists, male vocal choirs, solo artists and contemporary bands. Traditional and folk music in Wales has undergone a resurrection in recent times, with bands such as Carreg Lafar, Sian James, and The Hennessys becoming popular in modern day. Such alternative groups as Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Lostprophets and Man all surfaced in Wales during the late 20th century.

The “Sin Roc Gymraeg” – or, Welsh-language rock scene – is also flourishing within the city. Acts range from Welsh rock bands to hip-hop artists, and concerts showcasing these artists are often accompanied by large crowds and enthusiastic audiences. Presently known as a rock scene that is “the best yet”, the Sin Roc Gymraeg scene was possibly assisted by the annual Sesiwn Fawr Festival that began in 1992. Today, the festival has become the largest Welsh-language music event in the country.

In terms of sport, the most popular activities include football, rugby, and snooker. The Welsh national rugby team takes part in the Rugby World Cup, the Celtic League, and the European Heineken Cup. The sport is often considered to be a principal element in Welsh national identity.


Out of every 1,000 people (on average):
 959 are White British
 19 are White non-British  
 9 are Asian  
 6 are Mixed Race  
 2 are Black
2 are Chinese
Source: Office for National Statistics

Wales is much less ethnically diverse than England and Scotland (although Scotland uses a different classification system), with only 4% of the Welsh population being made up of ethnic minorities in the 2001 census while England’s ethnic minority groups make up 13% of its population.

Still, Wales is the smallest country in the UK in terms of both geography and population. The distribution of the population is very uneven, as the 2.9 million residents of the country are either condensed urban dwellers or spread out across sparingly-populated rural land. That year, about 2.7% of Welsh residents were born in a foreign country.

Cardiff, the country’s capital, houses more than half of the black population living in Wales, as well as nearly half of the total Asian population. About 26,000 people of Asian origin were residing in the country in 2001, which is the largest ethnic minority group in Wales. Between Indian and Pakistani residents, the numbers are very steady, however there is also an increasing Bangladeshi population that makes up over a quarter of all residents in the city whom are of Asian descent.

The number of black people living in Wales is slightly over 7,000 – about a quarter of 1% of the population. It is not known how accurate the 2001 census was in recording such numbers, as it is estimated that the black population in Cardiff is around 4,000 to 10,000. Throughout the northern or more rural areas of the country, there are very few non-whites.

Total Wales Population: 2,903,085

Ethnic group/sub-groupPopulationProportion of all residents
White 2,841,50597.8%
Mixed 17,6610.60%
 White and Black Caribbean5,9960.20%
 White and Black African2,4130.08%
 White and Asian5,0010.17%
 Other mixed4,2510.14%
Asian 25,4480.87%
 Other Asian3,4640.11%
Black 7,0690.24%
 Other Black7450.02%
Chinese 6,2670.21%
Other ethnic group 5,1350.17%
Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics


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