Inequality in midwifery and what it means for women's health
COVID-19 has no doubt hit every industry hard. Looking at midwifery specifically, the global skill's shortage is a tell-tale sign of the pandemic's impact. The recent State of the World's Midwifery (SoWMy) (UNFPA, 2021) report approximated 900 000 midwifery jobs are still needing to be filled in order to meet basic demand. It further highlighted a growing concern of adequate protection against SARS-CoV-2 for midwives on the frontline.
In low-income countries, the lack of quality care and midwifery training rings true; by 2030, disparities between low- and high-income countries are expected to increase (SoWMy, 2021). If anything, the pandemic has once again reminded us of the extremely wide gap between midwives in first-and third-world countries, and how access to basic infrastructure, like maternity hospitals and birthing centres, and midwifery training will affect the quality of care delivered to women and girls across the globe.
The SoWMy (UNFPA, 2021) has cited investment as an adequate means to immediately uplift the midwifery workforce, with the core focus areas being education, workforce planning, regulating and managing the working environment, governance and improved service delivery.
As midwifery is often perceived as a predominantly female profession, it begs into question whether there is a bigger force at play here. Gender pay gaps are still prominent across the globe, with ‘economic participation and opportunities’ (World Economic Forum [WEF], 2021) available to women still seeing little improvement over the years. According to WEF's (2021) ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’, ‘one of the most important sources of inequality between men and women is women's under-representation in the labour market. Participating in labour markets has been an important channel for economic empowerment of women and for building diverse, inclusive and innovative organisations'.
It is well-known that birth facilitated by a midwife is safer for both mother and baby; however, we are still faced with many societies in today's modern-day and age struggling to provide adequate antenatal and perinatal care. Therefore, empowering midwives by providing them with opportunities to grow, improve and do their job as best they can without being faced with socioeconomic barriers is critical. The health of mothers, their babies and families depend on it.