The role of labour in global production networks (GPNs) requires further theoretical and empirical research. Through the case of the qualifying industrial zones (QIZs) in Egypt and Jordan, I look at how different production and labour control regimes have emerged in the two countries to exploit preferential access to the US market. I analyse how the requirements of US buyers necessitate the building of a flexible, low‐cost, geographically mobile production and labour‐control regime that can meet the needs of buyers in terms of cost, time to market, fluctuations in demand and shifts in sourcing policy. Migrant labour from Asia and the formation of an associated dormitory labour regime facilitated the establishment of such a regime in Jordan. The social embeddedness of workers in Egypt, by contrast, hindered this process.