Women need to stop doing so much work for free. Or men need do start doing more. That’s the message that Melinda Gates offered in the annual letter she released with her husband last week.

But all she and Bill ended up demonstrating was just how out of touch they are with the non-super-rich.
“Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility,” she writes.

In an effort to change this reality, three companies released an advertisement recently called “Share the Load.” It shows an elderly man sitting regretfully in the home of his grown daughter and her family. She’s doing all the work — coming in from her job, cleaning up, cooking, taking care of her children — while her husband is sitting on the couch.

The woman’s father is sorry he never discouraged her from playing house as a young girl and that his son-in-law’s parents never encouraged him to help out more. The ad ends with the older man sharing the load — helping his own wife do laundry.

“This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen — showing how stereotypes hurt all of us and are passed from generation to generation,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a post on the site. The video has been shared more than 10 million times.

Sandberg writes, “When little girls and boys play house they model their parents’ behavior; this doesn’t just impact their childhood games, it shapes their long-term dreams.”

All very touching. But what changes men’s and women’s workloads is not kids’ dreams. It’s economics: The wealthier you are, the less time anyone in your household has to spend on unpaid labor — thanks to machines and a free labor market.

In France, women and men are doing 256 minutes per day combined, compared to the United States, where they’re only doing 208. In Italy, it’s 261. In Mexico, 355.

For all the ranting about how backward America is because it doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave, it doesn’t really look much different from Europe in terms of its “unpaid labor gap.” Here, women do 126 minutes per day of routine housework compared to men who do 82. In France, women do 158 minutes, compared to 98 for men.

Whatever the welfare state is doing for French women, it’s not doing the laundry.

There’s nowhere in the world where women aren’t more likely to be the ones raising kids and keeping the house.

But if you’re washing your clothes by hand, cooking all your meals from scratch and trying to keep your family free of deadly diseases, your housework is going to take a lot longer.

Unfortunately, the other half of the Gates letter, the part written by Bill, makes it seem as if this power couple doesn’t understand economic growth in the third world.

Instead of explaining the importance of securing property rights for the poor, of ending support to corrupt governments and giving people access to the free markets of the world, Gates instead talks about climate change and restricting global carbon output.

Inevitably, this policy will result in slowing the industrialization process that led to the wealth we enjoy in the West.

In The Wall Street Journal last year, environmentalist Bjorn Lomberg warned against focusing too much on climate change in the list of our policymaking priorities. He noted that death rates from floods, extreme temperatures, droughts and storms dropped 97 percent from the early 20th century to a new low in the 2010s of 0.38 per 100,000 people:

“The dramatic decline is mostly due to economic development that helps nations withstand catastrophes. If you’re rich like Florida, a major hurricane might cause plenty of damage to expensive buildings, but it kills few people and causes a temporary dent in economic output. If a similar hurricane hits a poorer country like the Philippines or Guatemala, it kills many more and can devastate the economy.”

Once you lift countries out of poverty, once you insulate people from natural disasters and deadly epidemics, then you can worry about wage gaps and labor gaps. But if you have economic growth, those problems might also start to solve themselves.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.