Prior to the most recent genocidal purge of the Rohingya in 2017, Rohingya people were engaged in cultivation and farming in the Arakan. About 80% of the populations of Arakan were farmers. Many of them were also engaged in fishing and plying river crafts. At present, surviving fishermen return from the sea after having been gone for anywhere from a few hours to several days; earning a meager wage or occasional share of the catch. Rohingyas were also engaged in trading and shop keeping.
There were woodsmen, artisans, carpenters, laborer’s, gold smith, manufacturers of tobacco and salts. Shrimp culture along the Naf river side was run by Rohingya Muslims which used to produce best quality shrimp. Border trade of shrimp from Maungdaw to Bangladesh was legal and a significant percentage of Bangladesh shrimp exports used to occur from this region. Many other products like dry fish, chilli, pickles, thanakha etc. were also traded from Arakan region by Rohingyas.
At present, Rohingyas who are residing in Myanmar can hardly meet their ends. Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh as refugees are prohibited from work. All of them are dependent on foreign aid as the host authorities have intensified their restrictions on refugees livelihoods, movement, and education.