There are 4.8 million people affected, up from 3.4 million in 2009, and equivalent to one in five workers, the Resolution Foundation said. The living wage is set at £7.45 outside London and £8.55 in the city.
Labour has announced plans to examine what can be done to increase the number of staff earning the living wage.
The party yesterday accused the SNP of presiding over a fall in its use in Scotland.
A spokeswoman for Scottish Labour said: "Under the SNP, the number of people earning a living wage has fallen by 5%. Energy prices and food prices continue to rise so even people with jobs are struggling to make ends meet."
The study comes as the Taxpayers' Alliance said a US-style "work for the dole" scheme could save £3.5 billion a year in welfare costs and help hundreds of thousands off benefits.