The National Treasury has expressed doubt on the feasibility of the proposal put forward by the SA Law Reform Commission advising the government to introduce a maternity support grant for poor pregnant women and to extend the benefits of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to self-employed workers.

‘Treasury appreciates these proposals but it is necessary to cost proposals at the time of development as it would have significant financial impacts on the resources available in the fiscus, given the current economic climate, but also for the UIF and the Compensation Fund and current contributors to these funds,’ Treasury told Business Day.

‘The discussion paper is not clear on how contributions would be sourced from prospective beneficiaries given that the informal nature of their work would make it difficult to trace UIF contributions for financing. It will be difficult for the UIF to ascertain the appropriate level of support without verifiable incomes for informal workers.’

The commission has recommended the introduction of a maternity support grant for poor pregnant women, putting the cost at about R3bn a year.

The commission is recommending the existing child support grant be extended to all eligible poor and vulnerable pregnant women, including self-employed workers in both the formal and informal economy, who fulfil the criteria for the grant. 

A final report of the commission said the maternity support should be provided for six months of pregnancy and be registered in the name of the expectant mother. 

In addition, this help should be converted into a child support grant after the child is born.

The commission also recommends that a definition of ‘self-employed worker’, which includes own-account as well as wage workers, be added in the relevant sections of all the employment and labour legislation providing for state maternity and parental benefits.

Full Business Day report