Back Number of nurses and midwives on the rise



Doctors, nurses and other health personnel are on the front line in the fight to save lives from the coronavirus pandemic. They are applauded and praised as society’s new heroes. Nurses is a key profession in this fight, closely monitoring their patients, administering their treatment, encouraging and soothing them.

In 2019, there were 4.45 million nurses and midwives employed in the European Union (EU), counting both professional and assistant nurses and midwives. This corresponded to half a million more nurses and midwives being employed in the EU in 2019 compared to 2012, with a steady increase over this period.


Infographic: Nurses and midwives in the European Union, 2011-2019 (million)


The share of nurses and midwives in the total workforce was 2.2% in the EU in 2019. Among the EU Member States, Germany stood out with a share of 3.4%, followed by Finland (3.0%), Belgium (2.9%) and Ireland (2.8%).

In contrast, 11 out of 27 EU Member States recorded shares of nurses and midwives of 1.5% or less in the total employment in the country. The lowest share was 1.1%, recorded in Bulgaria, closely followed by Latvia and Luxembourg (both 1.2%), Estonia, Cyprus and Hungary (all 1.3%), Greece and Poland (both 1.4%) as well as Spain, Portugal and Romania (all 1.5%).


Infographic/bar chart: Nurses and midwives, per cent of total employment, 2019


In absolute numbers, Germany recorded close to 1 458 000 nurses and midwives in 2019. This corresponded to one-third (33%) of all nurses and midwives in the EU. France with around 656 000 nurses and midwives (15% of EU’s nurses and midwives) and Italy with around 411 000 (9%) also recorded high numbers.

From 2011 to 2019, the number of nurses and midwives in Germany and France increased by 147 000 and 125 000 respectively, whilst in Italy the number only increased by 15 000 over this period.

In relative terms, Malta (+0.7 percentage points), Croatia and Portugal (both +0.5 pp) recorded the highest increase in the shares of nurses in total employment between 2011 and 2019. In contrast, Ireland (-0.6 pp) recorded the highest decrease in the share of nurses over this period, followed by Luxembourg (- 0.5 pp) and Bulgaria (-0.3 pp).


2020 marks the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, a year-long effort to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face, and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce. Each year on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, the International Nurses Day is celebrated.


Note: The European Union (EU) includes 27 EU Member States. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Further information is published here.


Source data:

  • The figures were collected through the EU Labour Force Survey.
  • The number of nurses and midwives, as defined by the ISCO-08 classification, include: '222 - Nursing and midwifery professionals' and '322 - Nursing and midwifery associate professionals'.
  • Data for a longer period are available; however, data on occupations from before 2011 are classified according to a previous version of the ISCO classification, and cannot be directly compared with the data on occupations from 2011 onwards.
  •   Nurses and midwives – Employment data, 2011 - 2019


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