Wales Centre for Public Policy

Forecasts suggest that Europe is about to enter a period of significant depopulation, with Eurostat projecting that the total population of the European Union will decrease by 6% by 2100. For Wales, the models are both more sanguine and more variable, with population growth slowing or plateauing from the mid2020s. Population growth in Wales is only maintained by net in-migration, with deaths exceeding births. The evolution of Wales’s population will be geographically uneven. Growth is expected to be concentrated in larger towns and cities. The population of rural areas is projected to be largely static or falling, continuing existing trajectories. There are already over 200 rural wards in Wales where the population decreased in the last decade, and these are likely to be the places that continue to lose population in the future. Understanding and tackling rural population matters both because of the impact on the viability of local community facilities and service, but also because of the contribution of rural population change to the overall development of the population in Wales. People who leave rural communities do not necessarily move to other places in Wales. Many migrate outside Wales, affecting the net migration figures for Wales as a whole. If rural out-migration were to accelerate it could tip Wales into population decline.