STAFF REPORTER PALMA “The major factor in population surge has been due to immigration” A NATIONAL report published yesterday has revealed that the population of the Balearic Islands increased by 113'682 residents between 2002 and 2007, situating the Islands as the third region of Spain in terms of demographic growth, following just behind the communities of Murcia and Valencia.

Year on year growth in the Balearics stands at 12.4 percent, whilst Valencia in second place registered 12.9 and Murcia in first, 13.5 percent. The information, gathered by the La Caixa banking foundation further makes it evident that the major part of the population growth in the Islands is as a result of immigration. A closer analysis shows that between 2002 and 2007, an extra 90'426 foreigners claimed resident status in the region. Added to the immigrant population already registered in the Balearics, the total number of foreign residents rose to 190'170 at the end of this period.

During the same period of time, the number of new Spanish residents settling in the Islands grew by 23'256 bringing the total number of nationals settled in the Balearics at the end of the five-year period to 840'480. At 1st January, 2007 the absolute total of people registered as living in the region stood at 1'030'650. The same report showed that the Balearics accounts for 2.3 percent of the Spanish economy, ahead of the regions of Asturias, Extremadura, Cantabria, La Rioja, and the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. However, broken down into activity by sector, the findings show that the Balearic contribution dips to 2.1 percent in relation to Commerce and to 1.5 percent in the case of Industry.

Viewed from a different perspective, the loss is made up for by the multiple success of the Balearics with regard to Tourism, the sector in which the Islands boast a 14 percent contribution to the national figures. Only tourist zones of a larger size, such as those in Andalucia can claim an 18.1 percent slice of Spain's tourist industry cake; as can the Canary Islands (16.5%) and Catalonia (15.1%).

The La Caixa report, which has been reproduced on an annual basis since 1997 aims to record statistical information at a regional and municipal level on economic and sociocultural issues. Such categorisation and compilation of figures shows other data, such as the fact that the Balearics is the region of Spain with the largest number of telephone land lines (as opposed to mobile telephones) and the greatest subscription to broad band internet services per head of population, with rates of 468 and 208 per 100'000 habitants respectively.

Other statistical findings relate to employment. La Caixa's figures show that as at 31st July in 2007, the Balearics was the region of Spain with the third lowest rate of registered unemployment.