Political and civic participation, including political representation – Welsh Government assessment
There have been changes to the policy and legal framework to increase political participation and improve the diversity of political representation. This includes the extension of the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds and qualifying foreign citizens, and specific programmes to increase the political representation of ethnic minority and disabled people – although it is too early to assess the impact of these programmes. The Welsh Government has also developed an action plan to increase the diversity of public appointments in Wales and has funded a range of mentoring initiatives over the past three years. However, ethnic minorities and disabled people remain underrepresented in politics and on boards, particularly in senior roles.
- Voter turnout increased at the 2016 Senedd election from 41% in 2011 to 45%, though this remains low. Turnout at the 2017 local government elections also increased from 38.7% in 2012/13 to 41.8%.
- The political participation and engagement of young people has increased through the introduction of the Welsh Youth Parliament by the Llywydd and the Senedd. More than 25,000 young people registered to vote in the Youth Parliament elections in 2018. The recent extension of the right to vote in Senedd and local elections to 16-17 year olds in the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020 and the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 respectively will further advance political participation among young people.
- In the 2016 Senedd election, 34.5% of the candidates and 41.7% of elected Assembly Members were women. There is no regularly collected data on the proportion of Members who are disabled, LGBT or from ethnic minorities.
- Women, people from ethnic minorities, disabled, LGBT, and younger people, and those with lower incomes, are markedly under-represented in local government. In the May 2017 local elections, 34% of the candidates were women, 98% were white and 15% were disabled.
- After rising for several years, the proportion of women appointed or reappointed to public boards in Wales decreased for the first time in 2019‒20 to 43.1%, down from 47.2% in 2015‒16.
- The proportion of ethnic minority people appointed or reappointed to public boards in Wales has increased from 3.9% in 2015/16 to 7.7% in 2019‒20.
- Despite disabled people making up 22% of the population in Wales, the proportion of appointments or reappointments of disabled people to public boards in Wales fell to just 4.6% in 2019‒20, the lowest rate since 2015‒16.
- Despite previous commitments from the Welsh Government, it has not yet introduced legislation to extend the right to vote in local government elections to prisoners serving sentences of less than four years. As such, prisoners in Wales serving custodial sentences remain unable to vote.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on political and civic participation, including political representation.