Publications & Reports

The State of the World's Midwifery 2021 report: findings to drive global policy and practice.

Andrea Nove, Petra Ten Hoope-Bender, Martin Boyce, Sarah Bar-Zeev, Luc de Bernis, Geeta Lal, Zoe Matthews, Million Mekuria, Caroline S E Homer
Novametrics Ltd, Duffield, DE56 4HQ, UK. [email protected]


The third global State of the World’s Midwifery report (SoWMy 2021) provides an updated evidence base on the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health (SRMNAH) workforce. For the first time, SoWMy includes high-income countries (HICs) as well as low- and middle-income countries. This paper describes the similarities and differences between regions and income groups, and discusses the policy implications of these variations. SoWMy 2021 estimates a global shortage of 900,000 midwives, which is particularly acute in low-income countries (LICs) and in Africa. The shortage is projected to improve only slightly by 2030 unless additional investments are made. The evidence suggests that these investments would yield important returns, including: more positive birth experiences, improved health outcomes, and inclusive and equitable economic growth. Most HICs have sufficient SRMNAH workers to meet the need for essential interventions, and their education and regulatory environments tend to be strong. Upper-middle-income countries also tend to have strong policy environments. LICs and lower-middle-income countries tend to have a broader scope of practice for midwives, and many also have midwives in leadership positions within national government. Key regional variations include: major midwife shortages in Africa and South-East Asia but more promising signs of growth in South-East Asia than in Africa; a strong focus in Africa on professional midwives (rather than associate professionals: the norm in many South-East Asian countries); heavy reliance on medical doctors rather than midwives in the Americas and Eastern Mediterranean regions and parts of the Western Pacific; and a strong educational and regulatory environment in Europe but a lack of midwife leaders at national level. SoWMy 2021 provides stakeholders with the latest data and information to inform their efforts to build back better and fairer after COVID-19. This paper provides a number of policy responses to SoWMy 2021 that are tailored to different contexts, and suggests a variety of issues to consider in these contexts. These suggestions are supported by the inclusion of all countries in the report, because it is clear which countries have strong SRMNAH workforces and enabling environments and can be viewed as exemplars within regions and income groups.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Human Resources for Health
  • Published: 27/11/2021
  • Volume: 19
  • Issue: 1
  • Pagination: 146