Official figures released for the first time show that almost one in ten adults have never had a salary, despite record-keeping in the UK.
The National Statistics Office (ONS) said students accounted for the majority of the 3.6 million people.
Its research showed that the number of 16-64 year-olds identified had grown by 270,000 over the past 10 years – with women more likely to never have paid work than men, especially in older age groups.
The study showed that among non-students aged 25-64 who had not paid employment, nearly three-quarters were women.
"This is because, among other things, women are more likely to take on most of the kindergarten," found ON.
"Women account for 94% of those who have never worked and now look for the family or at home, and rise to 96% in cases where ther is a dependent child in the family."
According to the ONS findings, they were 3.6 million people nearly two million full-time students with an additional 180,000 classified as students.
More than 510,000 looking for family or home – with 44% of those who care about young children.
An additional 440,000 people were found to be either shorter or longer term, while nearly 250,000 were classified as unemployed.
The categories used for the rest included 10,000 "discouraged workers" and it was 15,000 who said you didn't need a job.
There was evidence in the study of greater financial pressure on families when ONS reported a 19% reduction since 2008 in the number of women with a young child who had never paid work.  More follow …