Latest layoffs, cuts drive Greeks to despair

Greece's austerity measures are being met with anger and grief by the people of the debt-ridden country. Days of violent protests couldn't stop Greece's parliament from passing a European bailout deal -- but now the country faces massive cutbacks.

Whole government departments will be shut down and as many as 15,000 public servants will be thrown out of work. The crisis is even prompting a spike in suicide attemts. But there may be an opportunity to reform a broken system, as CBS correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

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The latest round of layoffs has driven some people to despair. In Central Athens, on Wednesday, a young woman who had just lost her job threatened to take her life.

Lambrousia Harikleia climbed onto the balcony of her workplace and threatened to jump. The mother of a handicapped child, she perched on the ledge of her office building, one slated for closure.

Her rescuers promised her problems could be solved. She accused them of lying.

One of the things that has forced the Greek people to the precipice is the corrupt and inefficient government that everyone agrees must shrink. For decades, politicians have been handing out jobs - with generous benefits - in return for votes, and now the country is broke.

"We all know what needs to be done," said Apostolos Apostolakis, one of Greece's hardworking young entrepreneurs. "The problem is, who will take the political risk to do it? We need people who will place the country above their personal interests."

Apostolakis is part-owner of an internet trading company. This crisis has already forced him to lay off 240 people - almost half his work force. Something he says was very difficult.

Standing in front of what was once his flagship store, he spoke of a possible future.

He said Greece's economic crisis is a catastrophe but also as an opportunity "to change the mentality of the people, for the system to change generally, and for Greece to become a better place for its citizens."

But at what cost?

In the end Lambrousia Harikleia was talked off the ledge. Suicide rates have doubled since the crisis began. She joins more than one million unemployed Greeks.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."