Press Release

First results from the 2020 Space Census

The first in a series of reports on the results of the 2020 Space Census has been launched today by the Space Skills Alliance and the Space Growth Partnership​'s Space Skills Advisory Panel to coincide with British Science Week. It can be accessed here: spaceskills.org/census.

The survey of more than 1500 people across industry, academia, government, military, and non-profit organisations establishes, for the first time, the demographic make-up of the UK space sector.

Key findings:

  • Gender: Women are significantly under-represented (29%), particularly in industry (22%) and military (17%). This reflects trends among STEM students and graduates.
  • Gender: Trans people make up about 1% of the sector, on par with estimates for the wider population.
  • Sexuality: LGBQ+ people appear to be well represented (10% vs 4-7% in the population at large). About a quarter say they are not comfortable being open about their sexuality. Younger people are more likely to identify as LGBQ+ (20% of 18-24s vs 5% of 50-54s).
  • Ethnicity: Ethnic minorities are under-represented (11% vs 14% in the population at large), particularly in industry and government, and compared to STEM graduates.
  • Nationality: Foreign nationals make up just under a fifth of the workforce (18%), most of these (12%) are Europeans, who are three times more likely to be changing jobs because of immigration issues such as Brexit.
  • Disability: Disabled people are under-represented (8% vs 13% in the wider workforce), but most (87%) are comfortable being open about their disability.
  • Age: The sector skews slightly younger than both the workforce as a whole and the STEM workforce.
  • Socio-economic background: People from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds are overrepresented, with the proportion of privately educated people more than twice the national average.
  • Carers: Carers are under-represented (6% vs 15% in the wider workforce).
  • Religion: Space is significantly less religious than the country (34% vs 58% in the population at large).

The findings will inform national policy and sector strategy, feeding directly into the Space Sector Council and the UK Space Agency.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

Space is one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors and this timely research shows that more needs to be done to ensure this thriving industry benefits from a truly diverse workforce, providing employment opportunities to people of all backgrounds.

I look forward to continuing working closely with the sector and across government to encourage those under-represented, including women and those from minority ethnic backgrounds, to pursue STEM careers, while ensuring we open up viable pathways for careers in space.

Will Whitehorn, President of UKspace, said:

The census results allow us to see the makeup of the UK space workforce as a whole for the first time, which is vital to ensuring our strategies for training and education reach the entire sector. The space sector is growing significantly and we’re committed to supporting the people in it.

Craig Brown, Diversity & Inclusion Champion for the Space Skills Advisory Panel, said:

These figures are a vital first step in understanding and address diversity and inclusion in the space sector. Our next and most important task is to develop practical actions for employers to implement, making the sector attractive and welcoming to everyone.

Heidi Thiemann, Director of the Space Skills Alliance, said:

We are delighted to be presenting this first snapshot of the space sector's workforce. Data like this is vital in identifying where there is still work to be done in making the sector inclusive and ensuring that applicants from all backgrounds are able to take their careers to new heights.

The findings will inform national policy and sector strategy, feeding directly into the Space Sector Council and the UK Space Agency.

The findings of the Space Sector Skills Survey, published two weeks ago, highlighted the need for the education system to provide more relevant and accessible routes into the industry to help the sector improve its diversity and meet its skills needs.

The Census was carried out between October and December last year, and was funded by the University of Leicester.

Further reports will be released later in the year focusing on other aspects of the Census results.


Notes to editors

  • The 2020 Space Census results are available at spaceskills.org/census
  • The 2020 Space Census logo is available for download here.
  • The Space Growth Partnership is a collaboration between industry, government and academia.
  • UKspace is the trade association of the British space industry.
  • Further results from the census, looking at pay gaps, experiences of discrimination, and reasons why people join and leave the space sector will be released later this year.
  • The Space Skills Alliance is a think-tank working to address the skills shortage in the space sector.
  • It has published research on skills needs and advice on recruitment for space companies.
  • It was set up in September 2019 by Joseph Dudley and Heidi Thiemann, who previously created SpaceCareers.uk, an award-winning early careers jobs and advice website for the sector.
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