THE middle classes of the Balearic Islands have undergone a radical change in what until recently has been a stable social and professional lifestyle, with the recession forcing some to seek the help of social services, the Gadeso Foundation economic research team said yesterday.

In their ongoing report on consumer trends in the region, the Foundation said that it is both the middle and upper middle classes which have been worst affected in terms of their economic status. Shrinking levels of income and resources have sometimes led to social exclusion the report claimed. Such people are now under considerable risk, said the Foundation, suggesting that the Balearics may be heading for a two-tier society.

The middle classes are having increasing difficulty in seeing their way to the end of the month, in maintaining any savings and in acquiring any goods over and above the essentials. Amongst the upper middle classes, however, there still remained some ability to set aside money and purchase capital goods.

Turning to an analysis of consumerism among the lower classes, purchasing power has been reduced to virtually zero, said Gadeso. In this sector, the Foundation were including the long-term unemployed, unqualified young people and immigrant groups.

Gadeso said in their report that levels of consumer confidence were directly related to socio-economic class. Research also showed that the perspective from which families viewed their own financial welfare did not necessarily tally with the state of the national economy as a whole. Current assessments by families of their own situations are noticeably more negative than those given by the government about the country's economic state of play .

Although there are widespread hopes that the economy is going to improve with the tourist industry reportedly showing signs of “picking up” again, Gadeso researchers said that there was no solid confidence that the expectations were going to become a reality.

Looking at the Balearic Islands individually, Minorca is apparently showing a very low level of confidence about an economic upturn, although slightly more than on Formentera. Majorca however is more upbeat than it was when similar soundings were taken in November 2009. Ibiza is meanwhile looking more brightly towards the future with its hopes pinned on a better tourist season.