In a country with statutory maternity leave the maximum maternity period is much longer than the average holiday (The UK allows up to a full year). So you have to fill the gap by hiring another developer with the same skills who is happy to work on a temporary contract which might be more difficult and expensive than finding someone seeking a permanent position especially if you require rare skills.
Industries where skills and certifications are more standarised don't seem to have this problem.
For comparison in the US: My wife and I recently took about 60 days of leave (paid) when our daughter was born, but paid leave is uncommon in many industries. Federal law requires the employer to let you take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth, and does not guarantee any pre-birth leave.
The concern is about what happens to people who are no longer employable if we cannot create new jobs for them? Will everyone be happy when a majority of the population depends entirely on charity and hand outs?
The student loan system allows more people from every social class to go to university and join the middle class. Loan repayments are linked to income after graduation so nobody has to pay back more than they can afford.
Your "and join the middle class" step isn't happening. There are two classes of people who graduate from college at this point.
The first graduate with degrees and skills that are useful - or can be made useful - in the professional world and start working immediately.
The second graduate with degrees that are useful for the sole purpose of teaching others those exact same topics and nothing else. They get paid a fraction of what the first group is.
While we need some teachers, professors, etc, the low pay in these roles point at an overabundance. If there were less people seeking those roles, recruiting them would become a priority and pay would rise. As we're seeing in software development every day.
You know what works even better to up the system to people from diverse backgrounds? Direct payment of tuition costs by the government. It's well documented that the rising tuition has reduced access for people from lower income families. Students have no power to negotiate tuition costs with the politically entrenched adminstrative class. Politicians, on the other hand, would have the power and career training for that kind of negotiation.
In the UK increases in tuition fees (by up to 3x) has had no effect on the diversity of university applicants. This is because repayments are income linked (and have an income floor) so that a graduate on a low income makes no repayments at all. Only those who earn a large salary will make significant repayments.
If tuition is funded by the government then this will force those without a university education to subsidise those who do go to university. Also university places would have to be limited to control costs.
suggest there was a slight increase in the percentage of lower-middle and working class students in 2012/13, but this was set against a drop in total UK student numbers of around 6%.
Those are the most recent numbers I can find. They don't break out the details.
>If tuition is funded by the government then this will force those without a university education to subsidise those who do go to university.
There's absolutely no reason why this would have to be true. There are plenty of other possible income sources, not least a much less tolerant attitude to off-shore tax avoidance, raised property taxes and the removal of loopholes that support tax-exempt foreign trusts, and taxes on quick-flip investment speculation.
The UK is actually swimming in cash. It's just not very evenly distributed.
There's a strong argument you can't really learn it without first learning the math, and it really needs to be in the order of math, physics, chemistry and biology. If you can't reason about it, don't have the foundation of that order of topics, can't do problem sets, is it really anything more than "a rote memorization of facts"?
Really, in the normal US curriculum biology is exactly that, because it doesn't require any math to speak of, then comes general chemistry because you can get by with algebra, but you don't have any real understanding of atoms etc. because you haven't done physics, critically E&M, but also classical mechanics. Then normally algebra based physics, since the US math track is so slow calculus comes too late.
But that's cargo cult physics, no one in the real world does it without the calculus. Heck, Newton invented his calculus to do the physics for which he's even more famous for, right?
As I mention in my other comment in this sub-thread, I consider myself lucky that my high school physics class was an automatic A class where the teacher just talked with us for the whole period. I learned a lot of useful things without doing stuff I'd have to unlearn in college.
A cargo cult understanding is probably superior to no understanding because science operates at different levels of abstraction. Most programmers have a cargo cult understanding of hardware for example.
Well, I'm talking about three levels of "understanding":
The "physics for poets" level I graduated high school with (including a great book on quantum chemistry I checked out from my local college's library, I think). This is useful, albeit dangerous as I've been saying, and enough to thrive at MIT with.
The cargo cult algebra based physics, only used in "education". E.g. the difference between Sears, Zemansky and Young's University Physics vs. College Physics
And calculus based physics.
My claim is that if you were to rank order their usefulness, it would be calculus, poets and then algebra way behind. I'd like to hear from some people who went from algebra to calculus based physics how that worked for them. I certainly found learning physics for real with calculus to be a joy....
ADDED: As for programmers and systems types ... yeah. While electronics intrinsically does nothing for me, I've always studied hardware to know how to build programs and systems better, and that's done me very well.
And the level of understanding can be appalling, we've had several discussions recently about big clusters failing at load and being replaces by a single system, often a surplus desktop, because the programmer had a clue.