3.6million people in UK have never worked – but not for the reasons you think

Despite record employment, nearly 10% of adults have never done paid work.

According to analysis by the Office for National Statistics, around 3.6 million adults in the UK have never been paid for work.

But there are a range of reasons.

The biggest number are young people.

Of more than 41 million 16- to 64-year-olds in the UK, 75% were employed in July 2017 to June 2018.

Young people aged 16 to 24 years make up 71% of the population who haven’t done paid work including students.

Even excluding full-time students, more than half of people who have never carried out paid work are aged under 30 years (52%).

The number of people who have never had a paid job has grown by 270,000 in the last 10 years, from 3.3 million in 2008.

People are identified as having never worked if during interview they responded to say that they had never in their life had paid work, apart from casual or holiday work.

More young people are staying in education for longer

Students are pushing up the numbers

This is mostly driven by a 230,000 increase in people who are studying and have yet to do paid work.

Almost 2 million – more than 55% of the total – are full-time students.

Nearly all in full-time education (96%) are aged 16 to 24 years.

A further 180,000 are students on part-time courses, correspondence courses or doing professional training such as nursing.

Young people who have never done paid work are more likely to stay in full-time education and less likely to be seeking work than they were 10 years ago.

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Since 2008, there has been a 15% increase in the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who are studying and yet to do paid work, which has coincided with a 28% fall in those outside full-time education who are unemployed and have never had a paid job.


There has been a rise in the number of long-term sick who haven’t ever had paid work

The number of people who can’t work due to medical reasons has gone up

A further 440,000 are either short- or long-term sick.

Nearly 90% of those who report themselves as sick say they’re disabled.

This is classed as having a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term impact on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

There has also been a significant rise in this group which has grown by 23% (around 75,000) in the last 10 years.

Women are more likely to have never done paid work than men

Of that total more than 510,000 say they’re looking after the family or home.

They’re mostly women (94%), many of who (44%) are looking after a baby or a toddler (a dependent child aged three years or younger).

This may not be a huge surprise, women are still overwhelmingly the main carers for young children.

But since 2008 there has been a 19% fall in the number of women with a young child who have never done paid work.

At the same time, there has been a small rise in men who have never been paid for work and are looking after the family or home, driven by households with no dependent children.

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Governments have introduced policies to help parents return to the workplace.

This has included changes to parental leave, increased rights to request flexible working and additional support for childcare.


Most of these have only started seeking work in the last year.

Almost 250,000 are currently unemployed, that means they are actively seeking work.

Two-thirds of these job seekers are aged 16 to 24 years and most have only started seeking work in the last year.


Nearly 40,000 are retired, although we can’t be sure what they did before retiring.

We can only say for sure that they’re not working or looking for work, they say they’ve never done paid work, and the reason they give is they’re retired.

They may have spent their working life in unpaid work.

Which leaves…

Just 5% of the original 3.6 million, That leaves a remainder of 190,000 people,.

Of those 16,000 are awaiting the results of a job application, 10,000 are “discouraged workers” who believe there is no point looking while 15,000 say they don’t need a job.

A further 28,000 – most of them young people – are “not yet looking” for a job.

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