If you’re thinking resettling somewhere new whilst keeping in relative proximity to home, you might think about Wales.
Why Wales? Well, why not? Whilst it doesn’t make the headlines that other places in the UK seem to, the Welsh economy and the standard of living in Wales generally, make it something of an undiscovered gem.
A look around at the general markers seems to confirm that Wales is enjoying a steady recovery from the recession and is a place where people are genuinely feeling the warm glow of the economic upturn. There are plenty of sources that agree with this broad assessment. Take the Federation of Small Businesses for example. According to their figures, Wales has seen the biggest percentage of increases in the number of businesses since the start of 2013 (up 13%) in the whole of the UK.
The traditional and frankly, outdated image of Wales really does need to be consigned to the history books. It’s no longer all about tin mines and sheep. Whilst there’s still an established manufacturing sector, Wales is also enjoying a developing creative industry as well as a growing reputation as a preferred location for professional and financial services.
According to Wales.com ‘the official gateway to Wales’ website there are nine key sectors: advanced materials and manufacturing, construction, creative industries, energy and environment, financial and professional, food and drink, ICT, life sciences and tourism. Of course, this looks like a classic case of hedging bets and covers every eventuality but at least it’s good to know that whatever sector you hope to enter, there’ll be options and that nothing has to be ruled out.
The Welsh Government’s Department for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science agrees and naturally aims to create a vibrant Welsh economy which delivers strong and sustainable growth. Each of the sectors has a private sector-led panel which advises the Welsh Ministers on the strategic priorities for the sectors and measures to inform Welsh Government policy making and future resource allocation.
Because Wales has only one FTSE listed company: motor insurance group, Admiral whose registered head office is in Cardiff, you might be worried that it’s something of an employment backwater. However, the well established Top 300 Companies List, produced by the Business School at the University of South Wales suggests otherwise, with five of the top 10 companies being ‘home grown’ Welsh concerns.
The main points from the audit point out that turnover of the Top 300 companies increased by around 5% and total employment rose by just over 2% with total profits falling by just over 1.5% (average profit margin of 6%) indicating a robust and sustainable movement towards recovery in- keeping with the UK economy. Stability is also something of a certainty in that nine of the top 10 companies on the list have been there for the past decade – contributing 37% of the turnover recorded by the entire top 300.
Alistair Wardell, Head of professional services provider, Grant Thornton in Wales said: “Opportunity is set to be a key theme for the 2015 economy – the building blocks are in place for growth and prosperity, but need to be matched by confidence and accomplishment.
Wales’ Top 300 companies should be proud of their achievements in what is often still a nervous climate; it is these businesses which are leading the way for Wales to grow and flourish.”
The Top 10 Companies on the list are:
• GE Aircraft Engine Services
• Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water)
• Calsonic Kansei
• Dow Corning Ltd
• Celsa Holdings
• PHS Group
• Wynnstay Group
Whilst there won’t be a need for any Service-leavers to learn the Welsh language you’ll find that it’s a curriculum subject until age 16 and that in fact, a significant minority of schools are taught wholly or largely in Welsh.
Since devolution the Welsh educational system has at times come under fire for being ‘producerist’ emphasising collaboration between educational partners and employers.
In fact, a review of the schools system by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2012 said that the Welsh Government lacked a long-term vision for education and does not do enough to support teachers. Although weaknesses were identified, schools were largely praised for creating positive learning conditions.
Data from the Halifax Building Society indicates that house prices in Wrexham rose by 8.9% but fell in Newport by 2.9%. The rate of price rises in Wales’ best-performing area was just a third of those in parts of London.
According to the property website, Zoopla, the average house price in Wales now stands at £170,259, up £5,967 (3.6%) on 2013, compared with prices in Greenwich which increased by 24.6% year-on-year to reach £328,044 in 2014.
Standard Of Living
Wales has some of the lowest living costs in the UK and most of the population enjoy a high standard of living. Naturally, standard of living is linked with location and employment; nevertheless, Wales has lower costs on items such as accommodation, travel, food, entertainment, shopping and services. Property prices, council tax and basic expenses all generally fall below the UK average.
- The average gross weekly earnings in Wales in 2014 was £537.
According to the Annual Quality Statement for NHS Wales 2014 more than 90% of people surveyed were very satisfied with the care they received.
The statement also describes some of the improvements made in the last year, including:
- Improvements in care for people at the end of their lives.
- Steps to make NHS services dementia friendly.
- Reductions in the number of people developing infections in hospitals – deaths from MRSA have fallen 34%; clostridium difficile infections have fallen by 18%.
- Vaccination levels at their highest.
- More eye health examinations available in the community to avoid hospital appointments.