Context. Work is not asking about your sexual experience. They aren't asking about your family reunion experience. They aren't asking about your playground experience. They are interviewing people for jobs. They are asking about job experience that relates to your skill set as it applies to the job you are applying for. Even if you have 20 years work experience as a concrete man, but are applying to be a software developer it really doesn't count much IN THE CONTEXT of the job you are applying for.
However, if I were looking to hire a developer, I would still lean towards the candidate with 3 years of school experience in programming over the candidate with 20 years pouring concrete in the "real world".