Original Research

Perceived work values, materialism and entitlement mentality among Generation Y students in South Africa

Emmanuel Nkomo
Acta Commercii | Vol 22, No 1 | a1033 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v22i1.1033 | © 2022 Emmanuel Nkomo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 March 2022 | Published: 23 September 2022

About the author(s)

Emmanuel Nkomo, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: In 2016, South Africa found itself gripped by what appeared to be spontaneous but violent demonstrations by groups of university students who were demanding free university education. Negotiations with the students did not appear to yield positive results.

Research purpose: The present article attempted to examine the factors associated with an entitlement mentality from a sample of students in two tertiary institutions in South Africa.

Motivation for the study: Demonstrations by university students have been recurrent since 2016. The argument presented in this article is that if people’s expectations far outpace what authorities are able to offer, rising frustrations might lead to rising entitlement and that such entitlement can influence workplace behaviour.

Research design, approach and method: The quantitative study used a cross-sectional design to collect data from a sample of tertiary students who by their birth years belong to Generation Y (n = 519). Structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis was conducted using IBM SPSS Amos version 25. The independent t was used to compare two means between men and women on materialism and entitlement mentality.

Main findings: The results suggested that Generation Y’s sense of entitlement is high and that they also have high levels of materialism values. Structural equation modelling was used to explore associations between perceived work values, materialism and entitlement mentality. Exploitative entitlement was found to be positively related to two dimensions of work values, namely independence and enjoyment but not related to materialism. Nonexploitative entitlement was found to be significantly related to independence, leisure and materialism.

Practical/managerial implications: Human resource practitioners and line managers need to pay attention to work–life balance, as research has shown that Generation Y values independence and enjoyment in the workplace and that it has implications for their vocational behaviour. Understanding of the determinants of entitlement mentality can be helpful as several managers have indicated a frustration with employees who have high work expectations but are not prepared to work hard.

Contribution/value-add: Recommendations are offered to assist both managers and policymakers on how to deal with vocational expectations of the youth.


Generation Y; materialism; entitlement mentality; work values; rising expectations.


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