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Part 2: Households Renown for being amongst the hottest and driest places on earth, California’s Death Valley is also famous for periodically bursting into life with a “super bloom”. This explosion of golden wildflowers relies on exactly right combination of heavy rains followed by warm temperatures and lighter rain showers. In an area that is as inhospitable as Death Valley, this blend of conditions is not a common occurrence. The super bloom takes place once a decade. Just as it is with the super bloom, household growth in any area depends on the presence of the right combination of factors: in this case relating to demographic, housing and economic considerations. Fortunately, the conditions for household growth do not just occur once a decade although the decennial census does provide an opportunity to review the scale of change that has occurred and inform projections of future trends.This blog – the second in our series on the initial release of 2022 census data – considers the changing household trends in Wales and seeks to understand the implications of this for future housing need.   A greater number of smaller households Between 2011 and 2021, the number of households in Wales grew by 3.4% from 1.3 million to 1.35 million. This shows that actual household growth has slowed substantially from the 7.7% increase experienced between 2001 and 2011. It also equates to approximately half the level of household growth that has been experienced in England since the last census. A comparison with population growth, however, shows that there has been a disproportionately high level of household formation in Wales. This is an important but unsurprising trend which replicates that seen between 2001 and 2011 (albeit at a lower level) and underlines the extent to which new households are forming from within the existing population as well as resulting from population growth. Table 1 Relative population and household change in Wales Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results The implication of the rates of population and household growth is that Wales has seen a 1.9% decline in average household size over the past decade to 2.35 in 2021. This contrasts to the situation in England where average household size increased 0.3% to 2.41 in 2021 (compared with 2.4 in 2011). This decline in household size reflects a continuation of long-term trends in response to a range of social trends. It underlines the continued need for housing to attract and retain working age population but it is important that falling average household size is not conflated with the need for smaller dwellings. The provision of a range of housing types and sizes is essential to tackling the reduction in the number of working age and younger people – a significant challenge in Wales that was discussed in our previous blog post.     Regional Disparity Breaking down household change across local authorities reveals a more nuanced picture. Despite experiencing the highest population growth (accounting for 95% of the total population growth for Wales between 2011 and 2021) and being the only four counties not to suffer a decline in working age populations, Cardiff, Bridgend, Newport, and the Vale of Glamorgan only accounted for 40% of the total household growth in Wales – although three of these authorities (Bridgend, Newport, and the Vale of Glamorgan) were amongst the top five in terms of the level of household growth since the last census (along with Monmouthshire and Merthyr Tydfil). Despite experiencing the second highest population increase in the country (4.7%), the number of households in Cardiff increased by just 3.3%. This shows that despite strong economic prospects in these four authority areas and their attractiveness for younger people, household formation is falling behind and cannot keep up with population growth. Reasons for this include a failure to deliver sufficient new homes, the relative (un)affordability of housing in these areas, and the potential (un)suitability of the housing stock for newly forming households. These issues were particularly pronounced in Cardiff and Newport which were the only local authorities in Wales to experience an increase in average household size since the last census. Figure 1 Household change between 2011 and 2021 by local authority Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results Three counties experienced negative household change: Gwynedd (-2.6%), Ceredigion (-2.1%) and Blaenau Gwent (-0.4%). This reflects the trend of these being the only authority areas to experience population decline since the last census.When looking at the change in household sizes by authority, there are significant differences across the country. As set out above, there were only two local authorities – Cardiff and Newport – which experienced an increase in average household size (both by 1.3%). The previous blog noted that these were the two areas that experienced the biggest rate of population growth. This suggests that existing households have absorbed more of the influx of people, rather than population growth facilitating new household formation. By contrast, all other local authorities experienced a reduction in household sizes. The biggest decrease was in Merthyr Tydfil (6%) where there was a 0% change in population, with significant reductions also in Monmouthshire, Caerphilly, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The population of Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire increased slightly since the previous census but each of the other areas with the most significant level of decline in their average household size also experienced a loss of population since 2011. All of these authorities experienced a decline in young people and working age population and a significant increase in the number of people over the age of 65. These population trends help to explain the household patterns that have occurred as younger people tend to live in larger households (either in shared homes or families) than those of retirement age who typically live in couples or alone. Figure 2 Household size between 2011 and 2021 by local authority Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results     Implications It is instructive to consider how these trends relate to housing delivery in Wales. When comparing average housing delivery against Local Development Plan requirements, a clear pattern of under-provision emerges. Only one Welsh authority exceeded its housing target and the national average for Wales was less than 50%, as ten local authorities delivered less than half of their identified requirements. These levels of delivery are likely to have had direct implications on the population and household trends that have been seen since 2011. Under-delivery of housing can have consequences in terms of the demographic profile of an area, as well as its social and economic wellbeing.Whilst some may see census results in respect of limited rates of household growth as justification for less housing, the wider social trends and reflection in population demographics discussed in this blog series convey a different story. Boosting population growth and retaining younger age groups through the supply of housing will support a larger workforce and will inevitably offer social and economic benefits to Wales and individual local authorities. To do so there needs to support for a future step-change in housing delivery.  


Part 1: population Once a decade the population of the painted lady butterfly increases across the UK as a result of a combination of weather conditions and food sources providing ideal conditions for the species to thrive. It is not likely that the number of butterflies is assessed with as much rigour as the number of people through the decennial census and unlike the butterfly population which swiftly falls back to its previous size, the recently published initial tranche of census data shows that the population of England and Wales has continued to grow over the past ten years to an all-time high of 59.6 million. The figures for England were assessed in a recent insight focus. This blog – which is the first in a series considering what the newly released data means for Wales – considers the extent to which the population results for Wales buck the national trend and the challenges that this creates for policy makers. We will consider the household results in a follow-up piece. A slowly increasing but rapidly ageing population Between 2011 and 2021, the population of Wales increased by just 1.4% to 3.1 million. This compares to an increase of 6.6% in England and is a quarter of the relative increase experienced in Wales between 2001 and 2011 (5.5%). This growth was entirely driven by older people, with a 17.6% increase in the number of people over the age of 65 and a reduction in the number of young people aged 19 and under (-4.0%) and a working age people (-1.5% aged 20-64). Whilst there was a higher rate of increase in the over 65 population in England, the younger age cohorts in England also increased in size. Figure 1 Demographic composition of population change between 2011 and 2021 Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results The rate at which the population ages has significant implications on a wide range of factors including social care, housing need and the strength of the local economy. The old age dependency ratio indicates the number of people of working age in a given population that are available to support the older population (over 65). A higher ratio indicates that there will be a greater need to support older persons who may be economically dependent. A review of the census data shows that Wales has a higher, and more rapidly increasing dependency ratio than England with almost four people over 65 for every ten people of working age. In addition, Wales has experienced a decline in the under 19 population (-4.0%) compared to a slight increase in England (+2.7%). The implication of this is that the situation in respect of a shrinking working population will become even more severe in Wales than in England where there is an increase in young people ready to enter the workplace in the future. Table 1 Changing old age dependency ratio in England and Wales Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results A regional perspective Analysis of the census results shows that 95% of the total population growth of Wales has been concentrated in just four local authority areas – Cardiff, Bridgend, Newport and the Vale of Glamorgan. These areas are all located along the M4 corridor and within the Cardiff Capital Region area of South East Wales. They are amongst the most prosperous parts of Wales and their economic strength will have been important in attracting and retaining working age people. This is reflected in a review of the demographic profile of the population change. These were the only four authorities in Wales not to experience a decline in the working age population, with Newport experiencing a 10.9% increase in the number of people between the age of 20 and 64. Together with below-average rates of increase in the over 65 population, the implication of this is that the data indicates Cardiff and Newport as having the lowest old age dependency ratio in Wales (23.7% and 29.0% respectively). This puts both authorities in good stead to continue to drive the Welsh economy. At the other end of the spectrum, a loss of population has occurred in seven local authorities, with Ceredigion experiencing a 5.8% reduction. The authorities with a shrinking population include: Rural areas in mid and north Wales (Ceredigion, Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey);  Valley authorities (Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly – both of which are within the Cardiff Capital Region); and,  Wales’ second largest city of Swansea. All of these authorities experienced a significant reduction in young and working age population although, interestingly, the old age dependency ratio was below average in three of these authorities (the more urbanised areas of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Swansea). Anglesey and Conwy both have dependency ratios of more than 50% albeit that they lag behind the highest ratio of 52.6% in Powys. Figure 2 Population change between 2011 and 2021 by local authority Source: Lichfields analysis of Census results Implications These results matter. They will influence a wide variety of policy areas from the economy to social care and education. They influence the planning and economic development arenas as well. The results summarised above highlight the reality of a much more rapidly ageing population and a loss of (current and future) working age population. But they also highlight a divergence in trends across Wales. When assessed against a number of metrics, the Welsh economy lags behind that of England with GVA across Wales equating to 73% of the UK average. Even in the most prosperous area, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, the GVA only equates to 97.5% of the UK average. By contrast, GVA in the weakest economic areas (Angelsey and the Gwent Valleys) equates to just half the national average. The Cardiff Capital Region is playing an important role in driving forward the economy in this part of the country but even within the ten local authorities that it covers, the census data points towards clear differences in levels of population growth, demographic profile and economic strength: Table 2 Overview of authorities within the Cardiff Capital Region Source: Lichfields analysis The data contained within this initial census release highlights a set of clear challenges. These exist across Wales, including in the successful CCR area, but most particularly in those areas that are seeing a declining population. Going forward, it will be important to work to stimulate the economy and encouraging more people of working age to move into – and remain – in the area will be critical to this. Such an outcome will depend on attracting a range of jobs in a variety of different economic sectors and delivering an adequate level of new housing in order to accommodate the growing workforce. Further census results will be published in the coming months. They will allow us to delve even more deeply into these issues. And unlike the decennial increase in the painted lady butterfly population, the implication of this data will be very long lasting. In the next blog in this series, we will discuss what the census results tell us about the need for housing in Wales and consider how the data might be used to respond to the requirement for new developments to demonstrate nutrient neutrality.