Nation profile


General information
3,063,456 inhabitants (2011, census)
20,779 km²
National Assembly for Wales
Major cities
Cardiff (capital), Swansea, Newport, Wrexham, Aberystwyth
State administration
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Territorial languages
Welsh, English
Official languages
Welsh, English
Major religion
Christianity, mainly Anglican (Church in Wales), with Catholic and Presbyterian minorities
National day
1 March (Saint David's Day)


Wales is one of four home countries that make up the United Kingdom. It is located in the western part of Great Britain, to the west of England.

Wales emerged as a political unit in the Middle Ages, enjoying periods of independence at the time. It was annexed in 1283 by English king Edward I, but the various Welsh principalities continued to exist under the English crown. From 1400 to 1415 Owain Glyndŵr led a failed revolt against English domination. Wales was completely incorporated into the legal system of England in 1542.

The first Welsh nationalist organizations were founded at the end of the 19th century. Labour and the Liberal Party undertook autonomy demands at the beginning of the 20th century. The biggest Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, was born in 1925.

Even so, it was not until 1979 that a first referendum on the autonomy of Wales was held. Devolution was widely rejected. In 1997 a second referendum took place, in which 50.3% voters approved the creation of the National Assembly of Wales. Devolution was further expanded in 2006.

Welsh Assembly laws needed to obtain the approval of the UK Parliament. This situation came to an end in 2011, after a third referendum in which Welsh people voted to abolish that restriction.


Welsh, a Celtic language, is the country’s own language. It has official status alongside English. It is spoken, mostly in the western half of Wales, by 562,000 people (19% of the population, 2011 census). Tens of thousands more speakers are found in England and the Welsh-speaking community of Chubut, in Argentina’s Patagonia region. Cymdeithas yr Iaith is the main pro-Welsh language grassroots organization.

National identity

The 2011 census reported that 66% of the country’s population declared their national identity to be Welsh, 26% British, 14% English and 4%, another. (The addition exceeds 100% as multiple identities could be chosen.)

Politics and institutions

Wales exercises its autonomy, or devolution, through its self-governing institutions. The National Assembly is the country’s legislature; the Welsh Government exercises executive power. The areas over which Wales has responsibility are 20, including education, health, culture, tourism, Welsh language, agriculture, transport, and economic development, among others.

Centre-left, pro-independence Plaid Cymru is the main Welsh-only party. Since the National Assembly’s inception, the party has been receiving between 19% and 28% of the votes in Welsh elections. A Gwynedd regionalist party, Llais Gwynedd, has no AMs but has elected members at the county and local levels.

All other parties in the National Assembly are Welsh branches of the UK-wide parties: Welsh Labour, Welsh Conservatives, Welsh Liberaldemocrats and UKIP Wales.

Civil society groups Yes Cymru and AUOB Cymru promote Welsh independence.

First minister: Carwyn Jones, Welsh Labour Party (since 2009)
Political system: One of the four "home nations" of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Distribution of seats in Parliament (2016 election). 60 members:
Welsh Labour Party - 29
Plaid Cymru - 12
Welsh Conservative Party - 11
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) - 7
Welsh Liberal Democrats - 1
Electoral system: Plurality voting system (first-past-the-post) in 40 electoral districts and proportional representation in the other 20.
Government: Welsh Labour Party and Welsh Liberal Democrats.


Language and Culture
Comisiynydd y Gymraeg (Welsh Language Commissioner)
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society)
S4C, television in Welsh
Golwg 360, Welsh language news website
South Wales Echo, Welsh newspaper in English
South Wales Evening Post, Welsh newspaper in English

(Last updated March 2019.)