There are few livelihood opportunities available to the people. The local economy is chiefly pastoral, with agriculture practiced in a few fertile valleys. Most households are engaged in primary-level activities such as subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing, or small-scale business conducted locally. Others are involved in trade within the tribal belt or with down-country markets. Women take active part in agricultural activities, collect fuel wood and fetch water, besides attending to household work and family duties.
With few industries and only limited unorganized mining in some areas, many seek employment as short-term unskilled labourers or enlist in local security and paramilitary forces. Those who are able to travel find work in cities across Pakistan as well as in the Middle East, using their earnings to support families at home. The more highly qualified among them have in many cases migrated permanently along with their families to urban centers outside the tribal areas, including Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. They and their children are reluctant to return to FATA, leading among other things to an acute shortage of doctors, teachers and skilled workers generally, and in particular to a dearth of qualified female teachers and doctors.