The UAE has fined more than 500 companies for breaking Emiratisation rules.
Latest figures, released on Wednesday, show that more than 81,000 Emiratis are employed in the private sector, up from 79,000 at the start of July. They are employed by 17,000 companies.
From July 7, private sector companies with at least 50 employees needed to ensure that Emiratis made up made up 3 per cent of their workforce.
A total of 565 companies have been penalised for false Emiratisation since June last year, with 129 companies fined since July.
False Emiratisation includes family members being hired with no real role, or forging employment records by obtaining false work permits in the name of UAE citizens.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said the penalised companies have been issued with fines ranging from Dh20,000 to Dh100,000.
It said those companies no longer receive financial benefits from the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council programme for employing UAE nationals.
Companies that violate the rules are also downgraded to the lowest categories within the private sector classification system. This means they now face higher service fees for work permits and transfer fees. Instead of paying only Dh250 for certain permits, they will pay Dh3,750.
UAE authorities had previously warned private companies against posting misleading job adverts and offering unskilled positions and reduced salaries to citizens under the country's Emiratisation drive.
Employers at eligible companies are required to reach a 4 per cent target by the end of the year, increasing to 6 per cent by the close of 2024, 8 per cent the following year and 10 per cent by the end of 2026.
In July, small businesses were told they must recruit Emiratis to their workforce in a major expansion of the drive.
Companies with 20 to 49 employees must hire at least one UAE citizen by next year and another by 2025.
The requirement applies to privately-owned companies across 14 sectors, including real estate, education, construction and health care.
Previously, only firms with 50 or more employees needed to meet the targets on hiring UAE citizens.