Reducing the amount of pirated software by just 10 percent could increase world economic growth by $400bn (£255bn) making way for 1.5 million new jobs, according an economic impact study by research firm IDC.

Globally four out of 10 software programs are pirated, but nearly two-thirds of the 57 countries surveyed had already reduced piracy rates by 10 percent since 1996 which, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), highlights the plausibility of the 2006 deadline.

China, one of the countries with the highest piracy rate (92 percent), would see the greatest benefit — a 10 point drop would see its IT sector grow nearly five-fold in four years.

"This is one of the most extensive worldwide projects that the industry has ever seen on the impact of software piracy," said John Gantz, chief research officer and vice senior president at IDC.

"For the 57 countries studied, we found that even a gradual lowering of piracy by 10 points over four years would have an impressive impact. More importantly local industry would gain more than the multinational importers because local software firms, which can't spread their risk across geographies with lower piracy rates, would have the wherewithal to reinvest in their business," added Gantz.

A global 10-point reduction would generate $64bn in tax revenues for governments, according to the report, which based on estimates from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) could provide internet access for more than 20 million people for four years.

"Strong property protection spurs creativity, which opens new opportunities for businesses, governments and workers," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA.

"When local entrepreneurs have a legitimate way to sell their innovations and make a profit from their programming, they can grow their own businesses and hire more people. That, in turn, drives up spending in the local economy and increases tax revenues that help fund important public services," he added.

The full report can be viewed here.