Career focus: Wales

A region by region look at working in HR in the UK.  This month we investigate Wales.  Edited by Ross Wigham, e-mail:

Economical stability puts Valleys on high

Wales is now home to a growing population of 2.9 million people, with an average age of 38. The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that the employment rate, after increasing, has now levelled off. The same is true of the unemployment figures, with neither significantly different from 12 months ago.

According to the ONS figures, the employment rate was 72.6 per cent for the first three months of 2004 with an employment level of 1.32 million. Unemployment was down by 0.3 per cent from last year to a total of 4.5 per cent.

National identity was highlighted in the 2001 census where more than a fifth of the population said they could speak Welsh with this looking set to grow as the majority with these skills were children or young adults.

The country gained a devolved government in 1997 and the National Assembly for Wales now has 60 members led by First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

Outside of London and the South East, Welsh finance professionals are the most confident in the economy. A survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) rated the confidence index at +28.4 last quarter, five points higher than the UK as a whole. Respondents to the Business Confidence Monitor answered positively when questioned on a range of key business indicators and predicted sharp growth for the coming year.

Turnover and profits are set to grow in the coming year with forecasts of 6.8 per cent and 6.6 per cent – again beating expected rates of 6.1 per cent and 5.8 per cent for the UK as a whole.

The HSBC Regional Focus Report 2004, compiled by the bank’s business economics unit, suggests that the worst of the short-term economic problems may be over. Stronger world activity, while not reaching the levels seen in the late 1990s, should be reflected in an improved export performance this year. However, the report also suggests that other long-term structural problems remain in Wales. It claims that the replacement industries for coal and steel need to be nurtured far more closely. And despite a decade of solid growth, GDP per head remains well below the UK average, and varies enormously across the region.

In terms of employment levels the Manpower Employment Outlook survey showed that growth has slowed in the second quarter of 2004, but is still rising year-on-year. Companies in Wales reported a net employment outlook of +19, a moderate decrease of five points since the last quarter. However, it still represents a considerable increase of 14 points compared to last year. The employment outlook is also above the national average of 16 and higher than many other regions, including London and the South East.

It seems that smaller businesses are thriving in the region with 68 per cent reporting significant improvements in sales. Figures from NatWest show that small firms in Wales are experiencing the best improvements in sales for almost two years. The employment levels among these firms also rose by around 7 per cent, while investment has jumped by 15 per cent over the past 12 months.

Living in the region


Findings contained in the Focus on Wales report by the Office for National Statistics show that four in five people of working age have a qualification. However, this varied significantly across the country. Cardiff had the highest number of people with degrees, around 22 per cent, while Blaenau Gwent had the lowest with just 5 per cent.


Road and rail links are concentrated along the North and South coasts of Wales, with Cardiff airport the main transport hub. In 1995 there was just 6km of motorway per 1,000 sq km, all of which was concentrated in the South. However, airports at Manchester and Liverpool provide good access to North Wales and the country has five seaports designated as Trans-European Networks.


The country is working hard to reaffirm its own individual image and since devolution has been working hard to promote Welsh culture. It has been helped by rave reviews and national exposure when hosting major sporting events, such as the FA Cup final since the closure of the old Wembley stadium. Some of the most amazing countryside in the UK adds to the uniqueness of the region.


Figures from building society Nationwide show that house prices have risen by a massive 36.4 per cent in the last 12 months. The average price of terraced house is around £96,000 compared to £178,000 for a detached property in Wales. Flats have an average value of £120,000 while semi-detached houses are currently worth £114,000.

Company profile
Holland House Hotel

Staff: 110 in London
Based: Cardiff

Hannah Williams works as HR officer at the luxury hotel Holland House in Cardiff city centre. The 165-room hotel is part of the Macdonald Group and employs around 110 staff.

The hotel opened in April, and Williams says she had no difficulty in recruiting staff.

“We had an open day last week which attracted more than 100 people – a major success.”

The quality of the applicants was also very high, and Williams believes hospitality employment in Wales is becoming a career choice, rather than just a stepping stone.

“Now that colleges are increasingly offering degree courses in hospitality, you get more graduates in it for the long run.”

Williams has always lived in Wales, but moved from her home town Llanelli to study in Cardiff.

“It’s an exciting city with a large pool of talent. It’s also accessible and has all the facilities to make it an enjoyable place to live and work,” she says.

“We have loads of fun working here because we all started together at the very beginning of a business and we’ve really bonded.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we benefit from this as we learn from each other.”

“Personally, one of the most satisfying things is the fulfillment of seeing people developing, right the way through from receiving CVs and interviewing them to seeing them come into their own and flourishing,” she adds.

move here for…


The famous rugged countryside attracts tourists from around Europe.

SME opportunities

Wales boasts a confident small business sector.


The number of inhabitants per sq km is lower than the UK average.

but beware of…


Employment and prosperity varies enormously across the region.


Like other parts of the UK, it was once the main employer, but is currently in decline.

Brain drain

Around 2.8 million people in the UK were born in Wales, so one in five of those from the country now live in England.

HR contacts and local information

National information

CIPD Merseyside, North Cheshire and North Wales branch

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