|Currency||Pound sterling (GBP)|
|GDP||£77.5billion (2019) |
GDP per capita
Population below poverty line
|1.428 million (September 2015)|
|Unemployment||3.9% (July 2021)|
|Agriculture, aerospace, construction, electronics, emergency services, food, forestry, manufacturing, oil and gas, renewable energy, services, textiles, tourism, transport|
|Exports|| £13.4 billion (2020) |
(2019: £17.7 billion)
|Aerospace systems, business and financial services, cereals, chemical products, dairy products, electricity, electronics, iron and steel, machinery, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, plastics, renewable energy, road vehicles, textiles, timber, water|
Main export partners
|Excluding the rest of the UK|
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.
The economy of Wales refers to the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money in Wales.
The percentage of all individuals, living in relative income poverty in Wales in 2016–17 was 23%, compared to 22% in England, and only 19% in Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than one in five people in Wales were living in poverty between 2001 and 2016.
However, in 2018, according to OECD and Eurostat data, gross domestic product (GDP) in Wales was £75 billion, an increase of 3.3% from 2017. GDP per head in Wales in 2018 was £23,866, an increase of 2.9% on 2017. In 2019 Wales generated tax revenue of £27bn, which is around 36% of GDP, and has expenditure of £40.1bn, leaving an deficit of £13.1bn.
This table shows the economic growth indicators over the last 30 years in Wales.
|Year||£ million||£ per head||Index of £ per head (UK=100)|
The currency used in Wales is the Pound, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England is the central bank, responsible for issuing currency, and retains responsibility for monetary policy and is the central bank of the UK. The Royal Mint, which issues the coinage circulated over the whole of the UK, has been based at a single site in Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf since 1980, having progressively transferred operations from their Tower Hill, London site from 1968.
In 2003, agriculture contributed £418 million to Welsh GVA, or 1.1% (including subsidies). 1.6m hectares (around 77% of Wales' total land area) is used for agricultural production and an estimated 57,500 people are directly employed in the sector. Farming is dominated by beef, sheep and the dairy sector, with the arable sector accounting for 10% of agricultural output. Average farm size is 30–40 hectares, small by UK standards, and dominated by family-run enterprises.
Main article: Education in Wales
Education in Wales differs in certain respects from education elsewhere in the United Kingdom. For example, a significant minority of students all over Wales are educated either wholly or largely through the medium of Welsh: in 2014/15, 15.7% of children and young people received Welsh-medium education – a drop from the 15.9% in 2010/11.
See also: Energy in Wales
In 2018, the annual production of electricity in Wales was 30.2 TWh and consumed 14.9 TWh, which means that Wales generates twice as much electricity as it consumes and is a net exporter of electricity to England, Ireland and Europe. In the same year, 25% was from renewable sources, up from 22% in 2017. Electricity generation encompasses a broad mix of technologies including Coal (e.g. Aberthaw), Gas (e.g. Baglan Bay), Wind (Cefn Croes), hydro-electricity (Dinorwig), solar thermal/PV and biomass electricity.
In 2017, the Welsh Government announced a target of meeting 70% of Wales’ electricity demand from Welsh renewable electricity sources by 2030. By 2018, Wales generated over 3,864 MW renewable energy from 68,728 projects.
In June 2018 the Welsh Government backed the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay project with an offer to invest £200 million; the project would see the world's largest tidal hydro-electricity plant. However, in June 2018, the UK Government refused to back the plan.
In 2021, the Welsh government said that more than half the country's energy needs were being met by renewable sources, 2 percent of which was from 363 hydropower projects.
Main article: Food and drink industry of Wales
The food and drink sector is classed as a priority economic sector in Wales. It involves 170,000 people that contribute to gross sales of £17.3 billion.
Main article: Forestry in Wales
Forest and woodland makes up 14% of the land area of Wales and there are 4,000 jobs and in forest-based industries.
Main article: Healthcare in Wales
Healthcare in Wales is mainly provided by the Welsh public health service, NHS Wales. NHS Wales provides healthcare to all permanent residents that is free at the point of need and paid for from general taxation. Health is a matter that is devolved, and considerable differences are now developing between the public healthcare systems in the different countries of the United Kingdom, collectively the National Health Service (NHS). Though the public system dominates healthcare provision, private health care and a wide variety of alternative and complementary treatments are available for those willing to pay.
See also: Housing and construction in Wales
In November 2008, the average price of a house in Wales was £126,181, a fall of 11.7% since the previous year. As of 2022 the average house price in Wales is around £251,000. The average house price in England and Wales as a whole was £161,883. In August 2008, average house prices in Wales ranged from £109,000 in Blaenau Gwent to £238,000 in Monmouthshire. Euroclad, a company based in St Mellons, Cardiff, specialises as an international supplier of architectural metal building solutions to the construction industry. JCB has a factory and shop in Wrexham which recently recruited 20 new workers.
See also: Manufacturing in Wales
Other manufacturing industries not listed here include oil refining and tool making.
Today Airbus Broughton employs over 6,500 people, mostly in manufacturing roles. The site is responsible for the wing assembly for all Airbus aircraft, with the exception of the Chinese A320s (these wings are assembled in China) and the A400M (assembled in Filton).  General Electric (GE) on Caerphilly Road, Nantgarw in Wales handles the world’s largest and most fuel efficient aviation engine, GE9X.
The St Athans Aston Martin plant in South Wales has recently created 750 new jobs. It had a series of recruitment events in South Wales that gained over 3,000 applications. The first technicians have been recruited to working on the new DB11 at Aston Martin's Gaydon Headquarters, training for the highly-skilled jobs to work in St Athan.
During the 1980s and 1990s, a major growth sector in manufacturing was the electronics industry with over 130 North American and 35 Japanese companies establishing operations in Wales.
Creo Medical, based in Chepstow, is an emerging Medical Technology company is developing medical technologies with the aim of substantially benefiting the medical community and vastly improving the outcomes of a range of medical procedures. RotoMedical has emerged as a leading Welsh manufacturer of PPE and medical equipment. The company produces specifically industrial gauges, ultrasonic level transmitters, temperature probes and pressure measurement equipment.
Metal ore refining is a long established industry in Wales. As of 2007, Corus had manufacturing facilities at Port Talbot, Llanwern, Newport, Trostre, Shotton, Ammanford, Pontardulais, Tafarnaubach and Caerphilly, although only the Port Talbot Steelworks remains as a major integrated steelmaking plant. Pro Steel Engineering is a steel specialist company based in Wales operting internationally. The company has delivered high-profile work, including collaborative projects such as the London Olympic Stadium Transformation and ICC Wales’ 22 tonne steel Welsh dragon. Nearly all the tinplate and much of the aluminium produced in the UK are made in Welsh plants. TIMET has a plant in Waunarlwydd, Swansea, which is one of the world's major suppliers of titanium for jet engine blades and medical applications.
Main article: Fishing industry in Wales
See also: Marine and Fisheries Division (Wales)
The Welsh fishing industry is the smallest in the UK, with about 1,000 full-time and 400 part-time fishermen. Commercial fishing in Wales employs approximately 600 people full-time and is valued at 39,000,000 pounds sterling. 92% of Welsh fishing vessels are designated small-scale.[α] The minor role that the Welsh industry holds is largely due to its geographical isolation, weak distribution networks and the demise of the Wales distant-water fleet from the 1960s onwards.
The retail sector is the largest private sector employer in Wales. The sector has 114,000 employees which accounts for 6.0% of Welsh GVA (gross value added). The retail sector in Wales is considered highly valuable by the Welsh government.
See also: Science and technology in Wales
In recent years, the service sector in Wales has seen above average growth; however in 2005 its share of GVA was small compared with most other regions of the UK. Wales does not have a favourable occupational structure, and a relatively high proportion of jobs are in public administration, health and education. Compared to more prosperous parts of the UK, Wales lacks high value added service sector employment in sectors such as finance, business services and research and development. This is partly due to a weaker agglomeration effect, due to the small size of towns and cities in Wales compared to regions within the UK and small countries.
On 28 November 2006, a trial of a new telecommunications network technology was rolled out in the village of Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan. The new network BT 21CN, offers broadband data transfer speeds of up to 24Mbit/s.
Excluding intra UK trade, the European Union and the United States constitute the largest markets for Wales's exports. Recently, with the high rates of growth in many emerging economies of southeast Asia and the Middle East such as China, UAE and Singapore, there has been a drive towards marketing Welsh products and manufactured goods in these countries, with China and Qatar entering the top ten destinations for Welsh exports in 2013.
|United States||£2.29 billion|
|Source: Welsh exports: Fourth quarter 2015|
The total value of international exports from Wales in 2015 was estimated at £12.2 billion (2014: £13.4 billion). The top five exporting industries in 2013 were power generating machinery £4.0 billion (2013: £4.2 billion), petroleum, petroleum products & related materials £2.6 billion (2013: £3.8 billion), Iron & Steel £1.288 billion (2013: £1.3 billion), electric machinery £0.69 billion (2013: £0.7 billion), and professional and scientific services £0.346 billion (2013: £0.353 billion).
See also: Tourism in Wales
With its mountainous landscape and numerous sandy beaches, Wales attracts significant tourism. In 2002, nearly 13 million trips of one night or more were made in Wales, generating expenditure of £1.8 billion. Of these trips, 11.9 million were made by UK residents and 0.9 million by overseas visitors. Cardiff is the most popular destination for visitors to Wales, with 11.7 million visitors in 2006.
In 2014, over 10 million domestic trips of one night or more were made in Wales, generating expenditure of £1.7 billion.
|Attraction||No of Visitors|
|Wales Millennium Centre||1,082,494|
|Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre||654,077|
|St Fagans National History Museum||553,090|
|National Museum Cardiff||539,550|
|Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo||480,000|
|Pembrey Country Park||470,000|
|Newborough National Nature Reserve||449,771|
|Cardiff Visitor Centre||322,671|
|Source: Visits to Tourist Attractions in Wales 2017)|
During 2020, and well into 2021, the restrictions and lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic affected all sectors of the economy and "tourism and hospitality suffered notable losses from the pandemic" across the UK. As of 6 April 2021, visitors from "red list" countries were still not allowed to enter unless they were UK residents. Restrictions will "likely be in place until the summer", one report predicted, with June being the most likely time for tourism from other countries to begin a rebound. On 12 April 2021, many tourist facilities were still closed in Wales but non-essential travel between Wales and England was finally permitted. Wales also allowed non-essential retail stores to open.
The outdoor areas of restaurants and pubs would reopen on 26 April 2021. Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities were to stay closed until 4 May.
See also: Transport in Wales
Wales is one of the few countries in the world where you must travel through another country when traveling from the capital to the furtherst point of that country, with nearly all line going East to West, rather than north–south. Rail infrastructure is not devolved to Wales; Wales has 11% of the rail network of Wales and England and 5.3% of the population, however the income received from Westminster in 2019-20 was 1.6%. In 2021 there were no electrified lines in Wales.
Many major English cities, however, have direct rail connections to Wales. The South Wales coast as far as Swansea is served by the South Wales Main Line which passes under the Severn Estuary through the Severn Tunnel; the West Wales Line connects it to the Pembrokeshire ferry ports. The main north–south railway line is the Welsh Marches Line between Newport and Shrewsbury enabling direct services between Holyhead and Cardiff. An urban rail network, serving 81 stations, is focused on the capital, Cardiff. Mid and North Wales (away from the coast) are served by a limited number of branch lines, some of which connect with revived narrow gauge railways.
The M4 motorway, A449, A465, A48, A40, and A477 in the south, the A55 and A483 plus border links in the north, form part of the Trans-European Road Network.
Wales has ten main commercial ports. Milford Haven is the UK's largest energy port and is capable of delivering 30% of the UK gas demand. Newport is the busiest UK port for iron and steel and Port Talbot is the third busiest for ores.
Cardiff Airport is the only Welsh airport offering international scheduled flights. In 2007, Anglesey Airport became a public airport. The UK Government's Treasury has repeatedly refused Welsh Government calls to devolve Air Passenger Duty, as doing so would give Cardiff Airport an advantage over Bristol Airport.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is a not-for-profit company which supplies drinking water and wastewater services to most of Wales and parts of western England that border Wales. In total, it serves around 1.4 million households and businesses and around three million people - and supplies nearly 830 million litres of drinking water per day. Hafren Dyfrdwy is a water company providing water and wastewater treatment services, operating in north east and mid Wales. It provides water only in Wrexham and parts of Denbighshire and Flintshire and both water and wastewater in northern Powys.
See also: Taxation in Wales
The Welsh Government established Independent Commission on Funding and Finance for Wales (the Holtham Commission) which looked at funding devolved public services in Wales, and possible alternative mechanisms. In 2011, the Commission on Devolution in Wales (the Silk Commission) was set up to review the case for the devolution of fiscal powers. This led to the Wales Act 2014, which devolved a range of provisions to the National Assembly, including powers over taxation. Fiscal and economic policy are currently reserved matters determined at Westminster, however from 2018 increased tax and borrowing powers devolved. In April 2018 the Welsh Government became responsible for three taxes: stamp duty land tax (SDLT), landfill tax and income tax. This was the first time for Wales to raise its own taxes since 1283.
According to the Welsh Government's economic development strategy, the role of the public sector in the economy is to help create a stable and favourable business environment, promote skills and innovation (through for example apprenticeships and Design Wales), address market failures and invest in economic infrastructure including transport and information technology. Aside from fiscal policy, energy policy, employment law, social security and various other aspects of market regulation are reserved to the UK Government.
The public sector is also an important employer in Wales. In the year ending 30 June 2008, 386,000 people (28.8% of the Welsh workforce) were employed in the public sector, with the highest number (49,000) in Cardiff and the highest percentage of the local workforce (35.4%) in Swansea.
The decline in Welsh GDP per person (relative to the UK average) over recent years has prompted policy debate. There have been suggestions – for example, by Plaid Cymru – that Wales should attempt to emulate the Irish 'Celtic Tiger' model, particularly its low corporation tax rates, to stimulate investment and growth. However, economists such as Nicholas Crafts and John Bradley have argued that the low Irish corporation tax rate was only effective in the very specific demographic and historical circumstances of Ireland in the late 1980s and 1990s, and that such a policy in Wales' very different economic context would not only require political independence, but could be relatively ineffective and/or require difficult policy choices between higher personal taxes and lower public spending.
In a report for the Institute of Welsh Affairs in 2003, Phil Cooke of Cardiff University argued that the Welsh Government had responded to the loss of productivity in manufacturing by substituting new jobs in the public sector, making Wales increasingly dependent on fiscal transfers from Whitehall. Cooke suggested that a relatively weak devolution settlement had prevented the Welsh Government from developing innovative economic policies, especially when compared to Scotland. However, critics including former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies and John Lovering, another Cardiff academic, claimed that Cooke's argument that a more powerful Assembly was a necessary precondition to more effective economic policies was a non-sequitur.
See also: Economy of Cardiff
As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff is a large engine of growth in the Welsh economy and the significant service centre and economic driver for the wider south Wales economy. The city and the adjoining Vale of Glamorgan contribute a high share of economic output in Wales. Cardiff is a centre for white-collar professions. The city relies principally on the retail, finance, media and tourism sectors and has been undergoing major regeneration since the late 20th century, particularly in Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay.
In recent years, Cardiff, the northern and southern coastal belts and some rural parts of Wales have experienced the biggest increase in employment, while the South Wales Valleys and other industrial towns have suffered a decline. This pattern probably reflects a combination of
Average earnings and employment vary considerably across Wales. They are both generally higher in east Wales, especially in urban areas, but lower in south west Wales and the Valleys, although earnings in Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot, which are still centres of skilled manufacturing employment, are relatively high. In north and north west Wales, earnings are low but the employment rates are above the Welsh average.
A significant part of the earnings (and value added per job) variations within Wales are due to structural factors such as economic mass and occupational mix rather than like-for-like lower pay or productivity. Cardiff, with over 400,000 people, benefits from its size, capital status, a hinterland in south east Wales and good connections to London and the M4 corridor. Cardiff is the primary location for service sector activities in Wales, with 26% of Welsh service sector output and 22% of Welsh service sector employment, compared to 19% of all employment in Wales. North east Wales benefits from proximity to Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside and there is significant cross-border commuting. The Valleys and the western areas of Wales have less economic mass and are more distant from major economic centres. These are some of the poorest regions in Europe and qualify for Objective One funding.
Many parts of Wales suffered from a continuous decline in heavy industry over the 20th century, culminating in the virtual disappearance of coal-mining in the 1980s. The demise of 'smokestack' industries left a legacy of high unemployment, and although unemployment has declined in recent years, unemployment in West Wales and the Valleys still tends to be higher than the Welsh average and economic inactivity (a form of hidden unemployment) continues to be a major problem in these areas. Merthyr Tydfil and Neath Port Talbot have some of the largest proportions of people in the UK not working due to long-term illness or disability, though some believe that in reality many people classified as "unable to work" through sickness are low-skilled workers encouraged to exit the labour market by the benefits system as well as declining demand for their skills.
The figures below for 2013 come from Eurostat and are denoted in Euros.
|Regions (NUTS3)||GDP € (2013)||GDP per capita € (2013)||GDP € (2016)||GDP per capita € (2016)|
|Isle of Anglesey||€1.167 bn||€16,700||€1.305 bn||€18,600|
|Gwynedd||€2.956 bn||€24,200||€3.224 bn||€26,000|
|Conwy & Denbighshire||€4.246 bn||€20,200||€4.767 bn||€22,600|
|South West Wales||€7.678 bn||€20,000||€8.723 bn||€22,700|
|Central Valleys||€5.939 bn||€20,100||€6.812 bn||€22,900|
|Gwent Valleys||€5.962 bn||€17,500||€6.923 bn||€20,200|
|Bridgend & Neath Port Talbot||€6.016 bn||€21,500||€7.240 bn||€25,400|
|Swansea||€5.532 bn||€23,100||€6.332 bn||€25,800|
|Monmouthshire & Newport||€6.322 bn||€26,500||€7.260 bn||€30,000|
|Cardiff & Vale of Glamorgan||€14.361 bn||€30,000||€16.590 bn||€33,900|
|Flintshire & Wrexham||€8.346 bn||€28,800||€9.374 bn||€32,200|
|Powys||€2.869 bn||€21,600||€3.134 bn||€23,700|
|TOTAL||€ 71.396 bn||€23,200||€81.683 bn||€26,200|
The GDP per head for Wales was €23,200, which was 84% of the EU average of €26,600, whereas for the UK as a whole this figure was 118%. The region of Wales with the highest GDP per head was Cardiff & Vale of Glamorgan with 114% of the EU average, and the region with the lowest GDP per head was Isle of Anglesey with 57% of the EU average.
According to the Welsh Government bulletin of economic statistics for November 2010, the Labour Force Survey estimates for the 3 months to September 2010 show that:
For statistical purposes, the Office for National Statistics divides Wales into 26 travel to work areas, collections of wards for which "of the resident economically active population, at least 75% actually work in the area, and also, that of everyone working in the area, at least 75% actually live in the area". Some of these areas span the border with England.
Small and medium-sized enterprises made up over 99% of the 190,000 businesses in Wales in 2006, but accounted for less than 60% of employment.
Alongside official national statistics a number of respected private sector surveys are used to understand how the economy is performing. These include the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey This survey has information on the performance of Welsh businesses since 1989.
See also: Regional economy in Wales
... health and economic crisis ... In particular, tourism and hospitality suffered notable losses from the pandemic.
It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential international travel resumes